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Healthcare Rationing in Europe Mirrors U.S. Problems

March 29, 2011

Maybe if we could just get the multinationals to pay their annual corporate taxes and billions in owed back taxes to ALL their respective countries, we would once again have robust economies and prosperity would return. Plus, healthcare would be fully funded instead of declining into a state of rationed care as we are seeing in Europe. I think many people may want to rethink their aversion towards “Obama-care”. This report provides some insight.

The Future of Healthcare in Europe -A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Janssen.

Executive Summary

Key findings of this report are highlighted below.

Healthcare costs are rising faster than levels of available funding. The rising cost of healthcare cannot be met with current levels of public funding, raised via taxation and insurance. The main drivers of rising healthcare costs in Europe are:

* Ageing populations and the related rise in chronic disease.
* Costly technological advances.
* Patient demand driven by increased knowledge of options and by less healthy lifestyles.
* Legacy priorities and financing structures that are ill-suited to today’s requirements.

It is a paradox of modern times that healthcare systems, created during a period of relative prosperity in the developed world, are facing financial ruin. Compared with the past, the early 21st century is a time of scientific advancement, economic progress and social stability in Europe. Yet the financial foundations of the healthcare system are deteriorating, and could crumble unless policies are changed quickly. The basic problem is the spiralling cost of healthcare, which is expected to continue. European governments and other payers are trying to slow that upward spiral, but they are far from agreeing how best to do so.

A key question is how healthcare systems can be redesigned without damaging the foundations upon which they were originally built. Underpinned by the principle of solidarity, Europe’s healthcare system is paid for by the population at large, with the risks of medical expenditure essentially pooled. Most European citizens agree with this shared-risk principle and would resist any efforts to change it and thereby remove the promise of universal healthcare coverage. However, the financial contributions required for healthcare have risen steadily, to the point where governments realise that further increases are no longer possible or politically acceptable. Yet the rise in the cost of healthcare systems continues to outstrip economic growth and shows no sign of slowing down.

The future of healthcare will be shaped by seven separate, but interconnected, trends.

* Healthcare spending will continue to rise, not only because of inflationary drivers, but because of growing recognition by policymakers that improved health is linked with greater national wealth.
* Keeping the universal healthcare model will require rationing of services and consolidation of healthcare facilities, as public resources fall short of demand.
* General physicians will become more important as gatekeepers to the system and as co-ordinators of treatment for patients with multiple health issues.
* More effective preventive measures and fundamental lifestyle changes will be promoted to encourage healthy behaviour.
* European governments will need to find a way to improve collection and transparency of health data in order to prioritise investment decisions.
* Patients will need to take more responsibility for their own health, treatment and care.
* Governments will have to tackle bureaucracy and liberalise rules that restrict the roles of healthcare professionals and artificially raise the cost of medical research.

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