Friday, March 11, 2011

New Zealand as an example of socialized medicine

Although Obamacare threatens to increase the size and intrusiveness of government it's not pure socialized medicine. Despite this fact, the idea of socialized medicine frequently makes its way into today's health care debates. Many would prefer a single payer system. There may be lessons to learn from arguably the free world's purest example of socialized medicine: New Zealand. That's why I found this article of interest.

The author claims that New Zealand's system delivers “High-quality Patient Care at a Fraction of U.S. Costs.” Read the article and it's easy to understand the reduced cost. High-quality? Well, New Zealand's life expectancy does exceed that of the US by 1.9 years. Proponents of single payer health care are fond of invoking such statistics which, of course, are not adjusted for homicide, alcohol, drug related fatalities, etc. But as for quality, it may depend on whom you ask. In New Zealand you might wait two years for an echo. Door to balloon time for STEMI, depending on where you practice, might be hours to days according to the article.

The article, written by a hospitalist, dovetails with remarks by Dr. Timothy Flemming who often talks about New Zealand health care at this meeting. Dr. Flemming, who practices six months out of the year in New Zealand and six months in the US, paints a very similar picture of restricted options and long wait times, but notes that the Kiwis, who tend to value the commons over the individual, accept it quite well. The system would never fly in the individualistic culture of the US.


Anonymous said...

Dr RW - the NZ medical system works beautifully. As an American living in NZ for 17 years and having been diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago, I have been through the medical system and wish my family n the US had access to the excellent care available here. If the wait time for a surgery is too long for a patient to consider, then opting for private surgery is so much less expensive than insurance payments are. I know first hand as after a stroke in the US my insurance premiums were to escalate. Here in NZ there is no reason to have private insurance, so the money that one can save offers us the opportunity to go "private surgery" with no need to wait - it's our option!

Anonymous said...

PS re the 'echo' - I am scheduled for one next week and have waited only two weeks! Previous cancer surgeries were scheduled with a week - the medical system works well in NZ!!