This commentary on the National Health Service by the Prime Minister in waiting was published today -
We are living under the illusion that healthcare in this country is free, but this is not the case. We collect huge amounts of taxes to fund this healthcare system and everyone is paying for their health from their own pockets.
We end up with a situation where we take money from people to pay for their healthcare but then tell them that they cannot choose their doctor, cannot choose their treatment and cannot choose what to be treated for. We assign them to a local doctor, medical centre or district hospital and tell them that, like it or not, they have to go there, have to wait their turn in the long queues, even if the service is rude and the treatment inadequate.
Our healthcare system has combined the worst elements of the State system and the biggest problems of a market-based healthcare system and it offers people no alternative. This is not the fault of our doctors; this is the system that the state has established.
It is absolutely clear that the state must make it possible for people to choose their own medical centre, their own doctor and insurance company. The money the state collects from citizens in the form of taxes and fees should go to doctors only through the patients, through the provision of quality service to these patients, and not through local healthcare administration officials or on the basis of funding estimates.
The legal possibility should exist for uniting all of these different sources of money coming from state and private funds into one channel. It should not matter which medical centre a person chooses — municipal, federal, private, in his home town or in some other place — what matters is that this is his money and therefore his right to choose. . . .
These words and more from Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister in waiting from today's International Herald Tribune, on the subject of Russia' national health service. His comments have a strangely familiar ring to them, don't you think.