Caps on healthcare

Greg Mankiw reports that a lady in Britain was prevented from supplementing her state-provided healthcare with private care. Apparently the NHS favours equality over efficiency:

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

Clearly, this restriction on her ability to spend her money as she sees fit is not allocatively efficient. The policy is also likely to diminish the health of the population, as the rich are no longer allowed to boost their healthcare levels above what is offered by the government. That, in turn is likely to lead to a greater burden on the government run, public healthcare system.

The morality of equality must run strongly through the British government for it to prevent spending that would reduce the load on its own health funding. Mankiw has an interesting analogy for those who agree with the government’s policy:

Should a parent who hires an after-school tutor for his child be barred from sending the child to the public schools?

  • While working as an Emergency Room RN In 1982, a man came in with a unique request. His father was back in Poland and had been retired. He had a prescription written in Polish for Cimetadine, (Tagamet) a now over the counter pill for ulcers. On that prescription were three numbers 10%, 50% and 100%, and the last one was circled.

    The gentlemen explained to the ER Physician and I that because his father had been retired from the Communist government all his drugs were free (hence the 100% was circled meaning that the Government would pay 100%, the only problem was that there was no Cimetadine available.

    Doesn’t sound much different to me… By the way, the doctor wrote him a prescription for 500 pill’s to be filled 50 times.

    Isn’t choice wonderful?