Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Buffet Syndrome

Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore (now his son is in power), a political genius has once described the buffet syndrome:

...it's called the buffet syndrome; The food is there; take what you want; you pay a token price. You've paid your taxes? Well, this is for you. And the waste is incredible. If you watch the hotels that provide these buffets on Sunday, people take two or three times what they can consume, and it goes into the garbage can.

What does this have to with Belgium? Good question. The socialist minister of Health Demotte wants that doctors prescribe more cheap or generic medicins. You cannot regulate this top down, it won't work. First of all the idea. When the government decides to tell doctors what they can precribe and what not, well... do I need to say that this is absurd. I want to be diagnozed by a doctor, not by Demotte. Secondly, too many interests at stake of the doctors, of the medicin business etc. Thirdly, from a policy making view, I wanna see how Demotte thinks to push this through. Not all doctors have the same patients, not all can satisfied with generic medication. And if there will be a quota of 20%, well this will lead to communist situations.

Demotte's problem is very genuine, bringing down health costs. But this will only work if you have the consumer pay (more) of the bill. What kept our health system more... healthy than the neighbours like The Netherlands was 'remgeld', the personal contribution of the patient. Solution is thus privatization. Or at least partial privatization as Moens, of the syndicate of the doctors has suggested.

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