[Marxism] Comparing health care systems around the world

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Tue Oct 11 08:11:29 MDT 2005

  "Health Policy Reform - ­ Driving the Wrong Way? A Critical Guide to  
the Global ’Health Reform’ Industry, by John Lister, Middlesex  
University Press, 2005.

Below are the openings of two reviews of what looks like an extremely  
useful book. It may even be a necessary acquisition for those actively  
campaigning for socialism.

THIS is a partisan book and author John Lister makes no bones about it.  
He is seeking an alternative approach to health care - one that puts  
people first.
          He argues that the so-called "reforms" of the NHS, initiated  
by Thatcher and continued by new Labour, are neither cost-effective nor  
delivering increased efficiency.
          In this meticulously researched volume, Lister offers an  
incredible breadth of comparative information on health-care systems  
throughout the world. The facts that he provides and the evidence that  
he has collected unequivocally demolish the facile Blairite arguments  
for opening up the NHS to the private sector.
. . .
OR http://makeashorterlink.com/?V43F215FB

The most problematic part of John Lister’s impressive 340-page book is  
the title itself. The title could give the impression that the book is  
mainly a detailed analysis of health policy in Britain in the post-war  
period. While it does cover those things, the title fails to convey the  
book’s global scope.
          But the book is justified in starting with Britain, especially  
so at a time when such attacks on health care (or "reforms" as he  
points out the perpetrators prefer to call them) are being driven  
forward in new Labour¹s third term in the form of new levels of  
privatisation and marketisation of the service.
          In fact these "reforms" represent one of the biggest attacks  
on the British National Health Service since its inception in 1948. The  
book points out that health policy "reform" has gone further and faster  
in Britain than anywhere else in the world ­ and that new attacks are  
under way.
          Also, given John Lister¹s two decades and more as a leading  
health campaigner, you expect a robust defence of the NHS against these  
attacks which threaten its very existence as a comprehensive, publicly  
owned, service, free at the point of delivery. The book does not  
disappoint in this regard. It is a detailed defence of publicly own  
heath care and could hardly be more timely as a result.
          None of these attributes, however, reflect the full scope of  
the book in my view. The book’s rather down-played sub-title gets a lot  
closer to the mark. It describes it as "A Critical Guide to the Global  
’Health Reform’ Industry".
          The book points out that, "Health care is one of the world¹s  
biggest industries, accounting for global spending just short of 3  
trillion US dollars in 1997, or almost 8% of the world gross domestic  
product. It is also a major employer: the health care workforce,  
numbering up to 35 million world-wide is the biggest of any industry.  
Policy decisions affecting health care systems therefore not only  
service users, but potentially the jobs, pay, and conditions of staff".
          It continues, "Health related industries, notably those  
manufacturing pharmaceuticals and modern diagnostic equipment, along  
with US private health insurers and health maintenance organisations  
are amongst the world’s biggest companies with turnovers in tens of  
millions of dollars".
. . .

Brian Shannon

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