Universal Health Care 'Ultimately Flawed,' Says Health Expert

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Despite Democratic calls for a universal health-care system in the United States, public health experts Tuesday said it would be the wrong move for the U.S. to implement more government control, like European systems.

"You will never catch up -- with taxpayer funding -- to what people demand," said Stephen Pollard, director of the health policy program at the Centre for the New Europe.

Pollard discussed the United Kingdom's socialized health-care system at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. He warned that the U.S. should not follow in the footsteps of the U.K.

"So the lesson for the United States is clear: do not listen to the perennial siren voices which call for a single-payer system in the U.S.," he said.

"It would be the ultimate irony if at the very time that the Labor government is beginning to grapple with the deleterious consequences of such a system in the U.K. -- even if for ideological reasons it won't ditch the basic principle of exclusive tax funding -- it would, as I say, be the ultimate irony if the U.S. were to become attracted to a system that is so ultimately flawed."

Pollard pointed to increasing taxes, decreased productivity and public services, as well as long waiting times. He said that those in need of cataract surgery or hip replacements must wait 18 months to two years to see a specialist.

"We're starting at such a low base in the U.K. that when the government claims a success in efficiency in moving toward a target, it's a target that most would still call terribly unacceptable," said Pollard.

But Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy and public health at Johns Hopkins University, disagreed over whether the U.S. health-care system should be reformed.

"We're not doing very well," said Anderson, noting that the World Health Organization ranks the American health system 37th in the world on overall performance.

"We're spending twice as much, but we're not getting twice the results," he said. "You go to a U.S. hospital and you are basically spending 130 percent more than you are in another country."

Anderson said the costs do not translate into more satisfied patients. "Our American public isn't very happy with how they're being taken care of in the health-care system."

Democrats have seized on this dissatisfaction with health care. After a failed attempt to implement universal health care in 1993, former first lady and current U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), as well as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), have been vocal about their desire for universal health coverage. Several Democrats on the ballot in November have also made it a campaign issue.

Adding health care coverage to their party platform, the Democrats' "New Direction" campaign promises that the United States "will join 36 other industrialized nations in making sure everyone has access to affordable health care."

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