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Private v.s. Public Healthcare: The UK Question

Posted on May 16, 2008 by Sergio Ulloa ()

private vs public healthcareThe United Kingdom is often cited by supporters of universal healthcare coverage as being the epitome of a national healthcare service, and while it is true that Great Britain is able to provide British citizens with quality healthcare services for little to no cost, the picture is not as rosy as it may seem at first glance.

While the National Health Service still has the biggest share of the healthcare services in Britain, there is an increasing trend of individuals choosing to separate themselves from the government services by obtaining private medical insurance. One of the more staggering statistics, for a country with an internationally lauded healthcare service, is that the number of individuals who have private health insurance has exceeded 6 million for the first time in 5 years.

This comes as the British government is considering tax reforms that would see young British workers contribute to a new social security initiative benefiting the nation's elderly. Following on from this comes the fact that a growing number of young professionals in the UK are moving ever further away from government provided services, choosing instead to obtain private medical coverage and insurance.



So what's going on?

Younger people in the UK are beginning to become disenfranchised with the current system. Poor response times, large amounts of paper work, and a general all pervading sense of bureaucracy have served to disillusion large amounts of the population away from this previously 'lauded' system.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) more companies than ever before are taking out private medical insurance in a bid to offer competitive benefits packages to prospective employees, and if the national service was all that it is cracked up to be, then this would not be a serious issue.

However, the fact that BUPA, the UK's largest provider of health insurance, recognized 20% growth in sales during 2007 should attest to the fact that no longer can the UK simply rely on the medical service as it exists today.

uk health care crisisIn addition to the NHS' bureaucracy there is a serious lack in qualified medical professionals, such as nurses, large amounts of overcrowding, poorly maintained treatment facilities and a virtual mountain to climb for treatment access. Is it any wonder that more and more individuals are choosing to go private over this public behemoth? And the situation won't improve for the NHS, especially if a proposed imitative to give tax credit to organizations that provide private medical coverage to their employees goes through; a proposal remarkably similar to one made by Representative Ron Paul in the USA.

And all of this comes at the same time as politicians on the other side of the Atlantic are becoming increasingly vocal about the need for the implementation of a Universal healthcare system.

There are no hard and fast answers when considering health. However the trends in recent years, especially in countries like the UK which provide free medical treatment, are worth following.

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