Access to health care is a human right. A long-held dream of Democrats has been to have universal health care coverage in the U.S. Americans whose jobs come with health coverage will see little effect from the health reform legislation that was passed in March. But it will do a lot to help the less fortunate and control costs.
In New Zealand, the health sector is predominantly State-owned and operated. There is universal coverage for New Zealand’s residents. In the last three decades, health insurance elements also have been introduced, creating a mixed public-private system for delivering health care.
Nobody in New Zealand needs to worry about being able to afford health care. But reigning in health care costs is a concern. There aren’t enough resources in our small, remote country to meet our demands for treatment. (A lack of resources is not likely to be a problem in the U.S.) Of course, people want to get the best care that they can, and everyone should have equal entitlement to whatever services are provided. But we still need to figure out how to ration who gets treated according to need and ability to benefit.
For years, there has been an ad-hoc system of rationing care in New Zealand. We sometimes joke that we need to “be our own advocates” when seeking care, or we complain about "lists". But care should not go to whoever complains the loudest. This is a downside of our politicized public health system.
We also need to stop the escalating demand for health services by better addressing societal problems like alcoholism and obesity. I think public health money would be well spent insulating our houses.
Our health care professionals need more incentives to be cost-efficient and deliver treatments better in their regions. If the public sees health professionals leading the way for change, people may be more likely to get behind their initiatives.