Saturday, September 01, 2012

EMHN 2: IDEAS Forum in Penang, Malaysia

This coming Friday, September 7, I will go to Penang, Malaysia. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS, will organize a seminar on Promoting Markets in Healthcare to be held on September 8, Saturday. IDEAS partnered with a new think tank, the Emerging Markets Health Network (EMHN) in organizing and financing this important forum.

Only three topics to explore that day.

1. What is the appropriate role for governments in healthcare provision?

Speakers will be Liew Chin Tong, a member of the Malaysian Parliament from Democratic Action Party, and Philip Stevens of EMHN.

2. Challenges in strengthening private sector healthcare provision in Asian countries

Speakers will be Dr. Debashis Chakraborty of India Institute of Foreign Trade, Prof. Yu Hui of China Academy of Social Science (CASS, Beijing), his talk to be translated by Prof Xingyuan Feng of the Cathay Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA, Beijing), and Dr. Chua Hong Teck, Director of the National Key Economic Area: Healthcare, Malaysia.

3. Markets in healthcare: communicating free market ideas to a sceptical public

Group discussion moderated by Philip Stevens, EMHN.

It will be a small group discussion with participants from China, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. Philip is from London.  I am excited to join this seminar.

This is the book that was jointly edited by Philip and Debashis, "Towards a Healthy Future?" published in 2009 by the Liberty Institute in Delhi.

Debashis also wrote a chapter on "The Health Scenario in India: A Cross State Analysis", Philip wrote three chapters here, (a)  Free Trade for Better Health, (b) Diseases of Poverty and the 10/90 Gap, and (c) Counterfeit Medicines in LDCs: Problems and Solutions, co-authored with Julian Morris. Julian was the Executive Director of the International Policy Network (IPN) before while Philip was the Research Director of IPN.

Dr. Amir Khan, a fellow participant in this training, also wrote a chapter in this book, "IPRs under the WTO - Examining the Public Health Concerns".

Photos below, from left: me, Amir, Philip and Julian, were the speakers in a "Think tank IPR meeting" in January 2011 held in  Singapore. The three of them spoke on various IPR and drug patent issues while I contributed on the case of drug price control policy in the Philippines, and dealing with local NGOs engaged in healthcare policies.

Lower photos, the book Fighting the Diseases of Poverty edited by Philip and published by IPN in 2007. I and about 10 other people co-authored one chapter of that book.

As I have argued in several papers in this blog, I believe there is role for government in healthcare, and that is to deal with (a) infectious or communicable diseases, (b) pediatric diseases like childhood cancer, and (c) people with physical and mental challenges or problems.

For me, the following are NOT functions of government in healthcare:

1. Setting the price of medicines, whether by innovator or generic manufacturers.

2. Setting the price of other healthcare products and services, like medical devices and laboratory instruments, diagnostic tests, professional fee, and so on.

3. Monopolize or nationalize health insurance system.

4. More government funding for adults with lifestyle-related diseases, or a result of their high consumption of alcohol, tobacco, fatty/sweet food and drinks, and sedentary lifestyle. Such lifestyle is a choice and the diseases that often come with them are not biologically inherited.

Market providers of healthcare -- private health insurance, private hospitals and clinics, private health professionals, etc. -- competing with each other, will have optimal role here. And while there is role for them in dealing with the above three cases that I mentioned above (infectious, pediatric diseases, people with physical and mental challenges), it will be the government (a Department or Ministry of Health, local governments, a state health insurance corporation, etc.) that will mainly provide the healthcare financing, to be sourced from taxes and related mandatory healthcare contributions.

Let me add that even in infectious diseases, there is big role for personal and parental/guardian responsibility in preventive healthcare. For instance, to avoid or minimize the risks of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria, people should clean their house and surroundings of stagnant water where mosquitoes can thrive and multiply. Or constantly remind children to properly wash their hands before eating. Or avoid living in low lying areas that easily get flooded and hence, be more prone to leptospirosis and other water-borne diseases.

I wish to hear other opinions from the above speakers and my fellow participants, if my points above is justifiable or not. The beauty here is that there are participants from the planet's two most populous countries, China and India. And these are independent thinkers who are not enamored by the idea that for almost all social and household problems, more government is the solution.

See also:
EMHN 1: Forum on Promoting Markets in Healthcare, IDEAS-Malaysia, June 23, 2012

Healthcare Competition 6: United States, May 05, 2011
Healthcare Competition 7: Moral Hazards in Healthcare Subsidies, May 24, 2011
Healthcare Competition 8: Centralization vs. Deregulation of Healthcare, December 31, 2011
Healthcare Competition 9: Deregulate Further the Supply of Healthcare, August 25, 2012

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