Europe is going grey. Already, the number of Europeans aged sixty-five or older is greater than the number aged eighteen or younger. In other words, Europe has tens of millions more elderly people than it has children. As people live longer, it is going to put tremendous pressure on our healthcare systems, at the same time as a shrinking workforce puts pressure on the public budget.
Critics argue that many healthcare models around Europe are still too expensive, inefficient and not designed around the expectations and needs of today’s patients. Access to new diagnostics, drugs and medical devices is unequal within countries let alone across Europe. In addition, public healthcare systems are increasingly unable or unwilling to pay high prices for expensive innovations.
New thinking is needed. Many of our healthcare systems were designed in the post-war era, and haven’t caught up with the pace of technological change. Yet public healthcare is also a cherished European value, and voters will not take kindly to politicians making cuts in the name of “innovation”. So, what’s the right approach? How can we ensure that healthcare systems are sustainable even with an ageing population? Can health budgets be invested in a smarter way, into new technologies that increase productivity without pushing up costs?
Our sister think tank, Friends of Europe, has been holding a series of roundtables on European healthcare, discussing smarter healthcare investment (and disinvestment in health interventions that are ineffective, inefficient and outdated). A report outlining policy recommendations will be published shortly.
Who should pay for your healthcare if you get sick? Are Europe’s healthcare systems fit for purpose? Are they sustainable in the face of coming demographic changes? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!