Headlines: September 9th, 2008

Britain is dropping behind in the global health race, according to a report published today by the independent think tank Reform. It suggests that to catch up, Britain’s universal healthcare for everyone is combined with the insurance ideas that underpin global health leaders.

The report puts the case for a National Health Protection System, under which individuals would be able to invest a 2,000 pounds a year tax-funded premium to guarantee their healthcare.

Reform says Britain and the USA are languishing at the bottom of a health league table of eight countries, topped by Japan and Switzerland. France, Germany and the Netherlands also perform considerably better and are reforming their health systems. It argues, too, that the costs of Britain’s poor performance are widely felt and it says the potential gain to the UK’s Gross domestic Product of getting people currently on incapacity benefit into work would be 80 billion pounds a year.

The study contrasts the innovative, long term approach of Britain’s Olympic team with the performance of the National Health Service and says the Department of Health’s rhetoric around long-termism and re-orientating services towards prevention is good, but in practice the system is still dominated by short-termism and central control. It says the best systems use insurance incentives. The best systems – unlike the USA – also provide universal cover for every citizen, it argues.

Reform’s suggested model would see incentives for healthy living such as gym membership, the Government’s role changing so that it becomes a regulator, the development of a supplementary insurance market to cover rare drugs and ‘luxury’ items and instant access to high quality information on health conditions and outcomes.