Monday, April 6, 2020

Fact Check: The Truth About Socialized Medicine [UPDATED 4/14]

The COVID-19 pandemic is, among other things, an historical opportunity to compare healthcare systems around the world.    Though it's still too early to draw any final conclusions, a couple of patterns have already emerged.
The graph below plots the top 40 COVID-19 countries based on their Heritage Economic Freedom ranking and their case fatality rates (CFRs) as of April 14th, 2020.  (China, Russia, and Pakistan have been left out due to unreliable data.)

You'll notice that most countries in the first two quadrants of economic freedom are tightly grouped in the bottom left corner of the graph.  Economic freedom correlates with low CFRs.  But there are also countries with very high CFRs in the free group.  In all cases, these outlier countries have the highest degrees of one-size-fits-all nationalized free healthcare, aka socialized medicine.

It seems the more nationalized and rigidly socialized a healthcare system is, the more deadly it is.  (Sorry Democrats, Progressives, and Socialists.) Meanwhile, economically free countries with strong private healthcare components are performing the best in this pandemic.  The U.S., Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, and others with blended private and public healthcare systems have consistently lower CFRs than their fully socialized counterparts.

(raw data below)

Caveats:  1. It is very early in the pandemic.  2. Each country is on a different part of the pandemic timeline.  3. Data is sketchy at this point.  4. Each country has a unique demographic mix.  5. Some countries are doing well AND have nationalized healthcare.

To be clear, every country, including the U.S., has some degree of government guaranteed healthcare. Some countries have the one-size-fits-all universal free systems, some are totally nationalized w/ a fee, some have nationalized insurance, or single-payer, some are blended public and private systems (i.e. The U.S.), and there's everything in between.

One of the big differences between nationalized countries is how they do it.  For example, total nationalization vs insurance nationalization makes a big difference.  Take Canada and UK:  In the UK, everything is nationalized - all health workers work for the national system and the facilities are owned by the system.  In Canada, the healthcare workers etc. are not nationalized, but the insurance system is single-payer. Canada has a low CFR so far, and UK is quite high.  Neither has a fraction of the ventilators or ICU beds per capita as the U.S.

     (Data sources:  Worldometers and Heritage)

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