by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Can you imagine the United States having a health care system that delivers better outcomes than those we get today at a cost that is 75% less? That number is not a misprint or a fantasy; it’s the reality in Singapore, where there is universal coverage. Life expectancy is 85, more than five years better than in the U.S. Decades ago, Singapore seriously lagged the U.S; now, infant mortality is lower and other medical metrics in the city-state are also better than they are here.
Doctors and health-care practitioners are every bit as good in Singapore as they are here, or just about anywhere else in the world. Many get trained in the U.S. or at top-flight schools elsewhere. The nation is always scouring the world for best practices and cutting-edge technologies. That’s right—Singapore’s hospitals and clinics don’t hesitate to buy the latest and the best equipment and devices.
Just look at the prices of medical procedures in Singapore. In the U.S. heart-bypass surgery will set you (and your insurer) back some $130,000. In Singapore? $18,000. A hip replacement costs 72% less and a heart valve 92% less.
Drug prices there are a fraction of ours. Insurance premiums are inexpensive—about $50 for those under 20 years of age and a little more than $1,000 a year for those in their late 80s. Moreover, if you pursue bad habits, such as overeating or smoking, your premiums go up. Unlike in the U.S., individuals pay for the policy, so it’s portable, not tied to their jobs. Therefore, Singapore has a robust individual-insurance market.
Does Singapore accomplish this by underpaying physicians? Nope. The after-tax incomes (Singapore’s income-tax rates are a fraction of ours) of general practitioners and specialists are about equal. And docs in Singapore aren’t plagued by malpractice costs or countless hours spent filling out insurance forms.