Last week, the British Government’s Health and Social Care Bill finally completed what has been one of the most tortuous passages through Parliament of any piece of legislation in recent memory.
The bill has been the subject of 15 months of intense political wrangling and more than a thousand amendments – many focused on its provisions for greater competition in the National Health Service (NHS).
Competition is a fact of life in most areas of UK society, but as soon as it is proposed within the sphere of the state-funded NHS, many people here start to get very jittery about it.
The key concern among critics is that competition between multiple providers will fragment the NHS and remove one of its big potential advantages – its ability to get different elements of healthcare working together within a single, integrated system.
On the other hand, proponents of competition argue that state monopolies like the NHS can become sluggish and unproductive, and that an injection of competition is just what is needed to drive efficiency and push up quality.
Don’t you think our military veterans deserve decent health care? I certainly do. That’s why I like Mitt Romney’s idea of setting the veterans free. Give them the opportunity to choose private health care alternatives to the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.), a system that too often fails them.
Why can’t we do for veterans what we do for seniors? About one in every four Medicare beneficiaries is not actually in Medicare. They have enrolled instead in private health insurance plans operated by such entities as Aetna, United Health Care, Cigna, etc. Why can’t we give people who risked their lives for the rest of us similar options?
You would think this idea is a no-brainer. But, just like the Grinch at Christmas time, you can always count on Paul Krugman of The New York Times to argue that being trapped is good, free to choose is bad, and government medicine is all anyone should ever have or need.
According to Krugman, “the V.H.A. [is] providing better care than most Americans receive” and it does so at a lower cost. He doesn’t stop there. Here is Krugman’s view of health care, worldwide:
The most efficient health care systems are integrated systems like the V.H.A.; next best are single-payer systems like Medicare; the more privatized the system, the worse it performs.
In other words, in the best of worlds we all would be getting veteran’s care, courtesy of the U.S. government!