Singapore’s 4 Percent Health Care Solution
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Longtime listeners -- not to mention my wife, Jody -- know that I’m a Singapore fetishist when it comes to public policy. (As Jody says, it’s rare for a husband to have a fetish that a wife can discuss in public...).
I had heard about Singapore’s remarkable accomplishments in education, housing and overall living standards years ago, but when I first heard that Singapore spent only 4% of GDP on health care, and had better outcomes than the US does at 18%, I was flabbergasted.
Think about it. Today we can't find the cash to recruit a new generation of great teachers, rebuild our roads and bridges, pay down the national debt, or invest in better airports, high-speed rail, a clean energy revolution or any of a hundred other things sensible patriots know we should do to renew the country. We can't do these things in large part because the Medical Industrial Complex vacuums up every spare dollar in sight. It's only slightly melodramatic to assert that if we could run our health-care system as efficiently as Singapore's, we could solve most of our other problems.
So how does Singapore do it? William Haseltine has literally written the book on the subject. Haseltine is one of America’s most distinguished scientists and entrepreneurs. He was a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health and is well known for his groundbreaking work on cancer, HIV/AIDS and genomics. He’s the founder of Human Genome Sciences, Inc., and also the force behind several other successful biotech companies. When I saw that he was not only a fellow Singapore fetishist but had written a book on the country’s health system, I knew we had to have him on. I don’t know how much America can adapt from Singapore’s experience, but given the stakes we’d be crazy not to take a much closer look.