Swiss (Healthcare) Cheese

  • by: |
  • 08/01/2007
There has been a lot of talk about how wonderful the Swiss health care system and what a wonderful model it would be for universal health care here in the US. Far be it from me to argue with anyone from the Harvard Business School where all thoughts are patented and original. However, one should consider the following caveats:

1. Health insurance premiums in Switzerland are price controlled and community rated.

2. The benefits package is largely one size fits all and is exceedingly generous with very low deductibles and co-pays.

3. There is little competition on the basis of quality.

4. Hospital costs are paid for largely by federal, state and local authorities.

5. The Swiss system has an any willing provider, fee for service model of care.

6. Dr. Herzlinger makes the same serious mistake those on the Left commit in correlating mortality rates and costs without adjusting for differences in race, age, severity of illness when she writes: "We found lower death rates and spending of only $2,952 per capita versus Connecticut's $4,623. Swiss physicians earn nearly as much as American physicians, and the country has proportionately more expensive resources like MRI machines." So what? And France has more hospitals per capita and doctors get paid way less and similar life expectancy rates as Michael Moore points out. Such comparisons are useless and misleading. The Swiss and French are not like us....

I am not opposed to universal access to health care coverage. But we need a uniquely American response that rewards consumers and recognizes that the real barrier is not so much cost as convenience and education. We need a retail/online model of care not the 19th century model Bismarkian or turn of the century public health model or -- G-d forbid -- the SCHIP model which is just the most inconvenient and uncomfortable form of private health insurance ever invented because it was invented by government. And by the way, the notion that the Swiss model was the light unto the nations is not new. It was first advanced by Peter Zweifel an economist at the University of Zurich. Which is not Harvard. That should tell you that a brand name is sometime is more important than what's being peddled. After all, Aquafina IS just tap water.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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