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Britain to decentralize health care

The New York Times, July 25, 2010

Perhaps the only consistent thing about Britain's socialized healthcare system is that it is in a perpetual state of flux, its structure constantly changing as governments search for the elusive formula that will deliver the best care for the cheapest price while costs and demand escalate. Even as the new coalition government said it would make enormous cuts in the public sector, it initially promised to leave healthcare alone. But in one of its most surprising moves so far, it has done the opposite, proposing what would be the most radical reorganization of the National Health Service since its inception in 1948. Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other healthcare providers.