The GPs act as gatekeepers for access to specialists, similar to the way American HMOs work. They are paid by the government’s primary care trusts in a variety of ways, including salaries, fee-for-service reimbursements, and capitation payments—that is, one payment to cover all the services their patients are likely to need for a given period of time. American doctors are paid under such arrangements as well. Each trust has its own budget and sets its own priorities within the framework established by the Department of Health.
The Brits can buy private supplementary insurance—to get a wider choice of specialists, for example—but most people don’t. Only about 12 percent of the population carries it, and private coverage accounts for only one percent of the country’s total health expenditures.
As the next few months wear on, special interests will no doubt spread more wrong information and attempt to vilify other countries’ health care. We’ll be on the lookout for such stuff. But honestly we hope that we don’t find it in the media. It really isn’t that hard to check out the facts.