Health care revolution in Europe

After generations of suffering long waiting periods for timely medical care, rationing of medical procedures, financial exhaustion from high income taxes and a 17.5 per cent value-added tax, a growing number of European Union (EU) citizens are seeking movement toward the free market health care Americans tend to take for granted, says Conrad R. Meier, senior fellow in health policy for the Heartland Institute.

The Stockholm Network, a European think tank, released a survey showing patients across eight countries in Europe were losing faith in their socialised health plans:

  • More than four in five of the 8,000 interviewed expressed a willingness to travel across borders for medical care.
  • In 2003, citizens of the United Kingdom spent $7.7 billion on private health insurance products and private medical insurance covered 12.7 per cent of the population.
  • At least eight percent had “cash plans,” which are very similar to U.S. health savings accounts.

    Meier says the Internet is fuelling much of the movement. Through the Internet, Europeans are witnessing the power of free markets in other countries and are using the Internet to shop around for medical services in the United States as well as in other less-restrictive health care environments.

    And, like U.S. consumers, those in the EU can now compare prices across borders, since half of Europe uses the same currency, says Meier. Such comparison-shopping was not available until January 2002, but the common currency, the euro, is now part of daily life for more than 300 million Europeans – a demographic very close to America’s.

    Source: Conrad F. Meier, My Turn: Health Care Revolution in Europe, Heartland Institute, April 2005.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 31 May 2005
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