A Model For Asian Health Care

Asia's growing middle class is demanding a better life. After bingeing on imported cars, cellular phones, designer clothes, and overseas vacations, middle-class Asians are now demanding higher quality, Western-style health care. They aren't satisfied with the no-frills service of government hospitals and clinics. They want more, much more.

They're getting it. Hospitals catering to both the well-off and the rich are springing up in Singapore and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Governments, watching their own health-care expenditures soar in recent years, are welcoming private initiatives. Even China is encouraging Western companies to enter. In many countries, governments are moving to take care of only the poor and elderly and leaving the rest of society to be treated in the private sector.

Singapore has gone the furthest by demanding that workers and their employers contribute to medical savings accounts. It has also introduced flexible pricing to allow those who can afford it to pay for more comfortable rooms. The government is encouraging private-sector health-care providers to build hospitals and form health maintenance organizations. It is a model that other nations in Asia should emulate.