Has America Got It Right With Private Healthcare?

With UK prescription costs rising, it's not surprising more and more people are questioning the value of a system that may lead people to ration or stop their medication altogether. In comparison to the UK's system of 'free' healthcare is the US system, in which medical care is private and paid for through private insurers.

The America Way
This approach to medical care has many possible advantages, with different companies providing a range of health facilities and health insurance. Competition between these companies drives fees down and gives a greater choice to those that may need different types of care.

The US spends a great deal on providing a range of programmes to ensure the public are looked after. The Medicaid program, for example, is state funded and was put in place for those that have little money and fewer opportunities to pay for their health care.

Of course, this type of government-led system is not for all and private health care is the most common option. If employers can't or choose not to offer health insurance as part of a contract, then it is down to the individual to ensure they are covered.

In some cases, an individual may choose to save money and not invest in reliable or fully comprehensive insurance. Or they may choose not to have health insurance at all. This leaves the nurses and doctors who treat such people with the inevitable problem of sorting out who pays the bills and if and when they should be treated.

So nursing jobs are not only concerned with the health and well-being of a patient, but the moral decisions involved in whether to withhold treatment. Those employed in the medical system, from doctors to those working in healthcare assistant jobs, are all affected, with the consequences of such decisions felt by the friends and relatives of those refused care.

In the UK all citizens are entitled to free health care and hospital treatment. The NHS is there to ensure that no one is at a disadvantage, no matter how rich or poor or whatever age they are.

Of course, this promise of 'free' care is not always so clear cut. When the government pays for a system that provides medical care, the authorities make the choice about when people can see a doctor and when a procedure can be performed.

This system has now become over-stretched and there are too few professionals and not enough money to cope with the number of people requiring assistance. Waiting lists get steadily longer.

Those in the UK may be spared the denial of medical treatment from profit-focused private companies, but they are faced with overcrowded hospitals, waiting lists and a service that can't provide operations when they are often most required.

Those that wait in hope for the privatisation of the NHS may look to the US for guidance, thinking that it has got it right with its private-healthcare system. However, it is worth remembering that although America spends more on healthcare that any other nation, it still cannot find ways to provide everyone with the appropriate medical treatment.

The UK and US health-care systems may well have their failings, but to seek a solution based solely on one option or the other seems simplistic. Perhaps a better balance of public and private health care is really the only way forward.