Back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s many politicians and opinion formers around the world promised that state healthcare systems would provide a safety net to aid the poor and needy – and that they would do this in a high quality manner. In
Britain, politicians promised that the NHS would provide all medical, dental and nursing care and that its provision would be of the highest quality. Similarly, in 1977 the Italian government introduced a National Health Service that in its aspirations was similar to the British system.

Today however instead of delivering the best, these systems are firmly straying into the mediocre. As politicians seek to get themselves off the hooks of past promises so they are invariably invoking a wide range of cost containment measures with ever greater restrictions on the use of quality medicines topping their list of priorities.

It is in this context that a recent opinion editorial in the Washington Post is of profound interest. Written by
Alberto Mingardi of the Italian think tank, Istituto Bruno Leoni , and the Centre for the New Europe  in Brussels, he argues that the Italian experience with price controls on medicines should make the new Democratic leadership in the US hesitate when it comes to the repeal the non-interference clause of Medicare Part D. He concludes:

“By attempting to hold down drug prices, the Italian government has deprived its citizens of the best care without reducing health-care spending. And it has deprived the country of what could be a vibrant sector of the economy. In their rush to revamp
Medicare, U.S. policy leaders should be careful not to make the same mistake.”

No doubt, this op-ed is based on a presentation that Alberto gave at a Capitol Hill briefing organized by the Galen Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation and the International Policy Network last September. You can watch the archived webcast of the conference at this link:

The published proceedings of the conference are available here