December 10, 2009

UK: National Health Service - After the Gold Rush

. LONDON, England / The Economist / Briefing / December 10, 2009 The NHS must now clamp down on costs and become more efficient. Really. Illustration by Otto Steininger THIS summer something odd happened. For over a decade the National Health Service has been at, or close to, the top of public worries and the cause of much political feuding. But as the recession supplanted it in Britain, it briefly took centre-stage in America, demonised by critics railing against Barack Obama’s proposed health reforms. Both Gordon Brown, the Labour prime minister, and David Cameron, the Conservative opposition leader, rallied to defend the NHS against the charge that it was Orwellian. The NHS arouses international interest because it is an especially stark example of a state-run and publicly financed medical-care system. Along with countries like Sweden, Britain uses tax finance to pay for over 80% of health spending. Elsewhere in Europe—in Germany, for instance—social-insurance schemes shoulder most of the financial burden. America has forged its own third way among rich countries by relying heavily on private insurance through employers to pay for much of its supersized spending, which still leaves 15% of the population lacking health insurance. [rc] Click here for the complete Briefing Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2009.