Health policy panel discusses alternative national health care systems

Pete Rosos/Creative Commons
On May 7, Berkeley health policy scholars discussed lessons and ideas for possible health reform using studies of other health systems around the world. (Photo by Pete Rosos under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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UC Berkeley health policy scholars were joined by professors from several universities to discuss national health care systems during a webinar conference hosted Friday.

The conference was a collaboration between the Gilbert Center and the College of Letters and Science.

Titled “Lessons for U.S. Health Reform: Ideas from Health Care Around the World,” the webinar was introduced by Jonathon Kolstad, associate professor of the Haas School of Business, as he elaborated on the role that social factors play in the health care system. Kolstad also said in the conference that the United States’ cost of health care was growing as a share of the gross domestic product, or GDP.

The “National Health Systems Presentations” portion of the conference was dedicated to a panel of scholars who researched national health care systems. Each panelist originated from a different country and offered professional and personal perspectives on different health care systems. Paul Gertler, professor at the Haas School of Business and campus School of Public Health, served as the moderator for this segment of the panel.

Carol Propper, professor of economics at Imperial College London, represented the United Kingdom and provided insight as to which aspects of the British national health care system worked efficiently and which could benefit the United States system.

“The UK has a single-payer system, which really reduces administration costs and makes things easier,” Propper said during the conference. “Secondly, the yield pay has no coinsurance for individuals, individuals are tax-funded, and the health care system is tax-funded.  The third feature that I’d also say we have is a very strong gatekeeper system with a long-established general practice family doctor system.”

Sebastian Bauhoff, assistant professor of global health and economics at Harvard University, spoke on behalf of Germany’s health care system and explained Germany’s competitive insurance market. Bauhoff added that in maintaining the subsidiary principle, the government delegates the management of social health insurance to the key actors in the system.

Bauhoff also discussed Germany’s Federal Joint Committee and its practice of remaining independent from the government and setting basic parameters within the health system. This includes pricing for pharmaceuticals and hospital payment systems. He noted that some features of this committee can relate to the U.S. MedPAC, but emphasized the potential in it being more involved in the decision-making process.

Panelist Tsung-Mei Cheng, health policy research analyst at Princeton University who spoke about Taiwan’s health care system, said during the conference that their single-payer system and guaranteed enrollment keeps GDP health care spending very stable.

“The growth rate in Taiwan’s national health insurance is pretty much level,” Cheng said during the conference. “The national health insurance system imposes an ex-ante fixed global budget and has a way to enforce that. There’s no limit to how often you can go to the doctor, or who you can see in this total freedom of choice of doctors and hospitals.”

Contact Isabella Ruiz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Isabella_Ruiz3.