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Free-market failure in healthcare

In Malta it is often taken for granted that healthcare is provided to all, irrespective of financial ability. In many countries this has yet to be achieved.

In the US, where healthcare is entirely privatised, the wealthiest 1 per cent have a life expectancy 10-15 years above that of the lowest earners. This stemming from the fact that the Capitalist/Free-market model of the healthcare system dubs the patient the ‘consumer’ and healthcare a commodity supplied by privately owned hospitals.

Approximately 15 per cent of Americans (43.6 million) are lacking health insurance, the consequences of this being that they either come up with the money or go without treatment, regardless of the severity of the illness. Around 18,000 die every year as a result of being uninsured (according to 2006 statistics).

An alarming 60 per cent of personal bankruptcies in the US are the result of medical bills. Obamacare, a cheaper brand of health insurance, merely serves as a cosmetic ‘solution’ to an issue that has yet to be addressed. That is the failure of the free-market to provide healthcare to all who require it.

Roughly 60 years ago the US media’s cold-war propaganda warned its people of the ‘’disguises of socialism’’ as a ‘’threat to prosperity’’ and the American way of life. Meanwhile, Cuba- a Communist nation with a GDP far smaller than that of the US has been able to provide healthcare to all of its citizens, as well as providing one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

The difference is that in the US, healthcare is left entirely up to private companies to provide, and private individuals to pay for- with little other consideration. In Cuba, healthcare is funded by the state, producing hospitals that exist with the sole objective of providing treatment. In the latter example, profit never factors into the equation. While in the former, it is the goal of the provider as much as treatment is.

In Malta, while private healthcare is readily available, there is also public healthcare for those not fortunate enough to afford such a luxury. No one is ever denied necessary treatment. In some instances, private hospitals here may refer you to public ones for certain treatments they are unable to provide.

Meanwhile the US clinging to its anti-socialist views, provides no public healthcare to rely on, yet is able to afford a $600 billion (€534 billion) annual military budget. To put that in perspective, the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) was set up with an initial budget of £9 billion (€10.4 billion).

From these statistics and simple comparisons between nations, who with fractions of the wealth are able to provide free universal healthcare, it becomes clear the free-market is struggling to achieve the same. The question is: why has nothing been done about it?

This article was issued by Cosmo McNamara, intern at Calamatta Cuschieri. For more information visit, www.cc.com.mt. The information, view and opinions provided in this article is being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. Calamatta Cuschieri Investment Services Ltd has not verified and consequently neither warrants the accuracy nor the veracity of any information, views or opinions appearing on this website.

 

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