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  • rmacculloch

Does Health Minister Andrew Little have a Clue about Health Economics?

Business Desk is running a series on our health-care sector. In my opinion, comments from Health Minister Andrew Little reveal why he is unfit to be in that job. Should folks from other countries who are experts in health economics be reading them, they will be rolling their eye-balls. It's embarrassing. He starts off the interview with the line:

“Instinctively, I don't like the idea of people's ill-health being the source of profit to others.”

It seems Minister Little's instincts are such that the idea of saving tens of thousands of Kiwi lives during the pandemic was not a great idea since it handed the folks who invented the vaccine at Pfizer some profits. How dare he disparage the scientists working at drug companies. What has Minister Little ever invented? Isn't he profiting out of other people's ill-health by being Minister of Health - with its accompanying pay and perks - when he has practically no prior experience in health-care and was formerly a union lawyer?

What's disconcerting is how Minister Little's comments reflect a misunderstanding about how many of the best overseas health-care systems work. He talks of the distinction between private profit-based & public health-care providers, as if they're the only two games in town, and is disparaging about the former. "If we were to say 'Well, actually, it would be better if they [private suppliers] were all fully managed by public organizations', we just couldn’t do it at the moment. "So, we just accept the mix that we've got at the moment", he says.

However the majority of hospitals in countries like Canada are private non-for-profits. They compete on quality and your bills are paid for by social insurance. Canada has a universal health-care system. Everyone is covered. In France, around 40% of all hospital beds are private, many of which are provided by non-for-profits.

The role of non-for-profit private health-care providers seems to be out of Andrew Little's comprehension. From the way he talks, it's clear that creating a high quality, efficient Universal health-care system in this country is way beyond his grasp of the issues.



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