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HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD PART 10: CONCLUSIONS AND COMMENTARY

HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS AROUND THE WORLD

PART 10: CONCLUSIONS AND COMMENTARY

Considering advanced, industrialized countries whether measured by the percentage of GDP or per capita spending, the U.S. has the most expensive system on the planet and is the only one of these countries that do not offer healthcare to all citizens. We are also the only country that relies on for-profit health insurance to pay for essential and elective healthcare. Furthermore, Americans pay more for their drugs than do any of their counterparts. As Reid noted, “It is revealing that, in the lingo of the U.S. health insurance industry, the money paid to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies for the treatment of insured patients is referred to as medical loss.” Most for-profit insurance companies have administrative costs of approximately 20%. That means that for every dollar paid in premiums, only 80 cents go to paying for health care. In contrast, U.S. Medicare has only a 2% administrative cost!

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U.S. doctors earn considerably more than doctors in the countries noted in the preceding sections. On the other hand, American doctors generally owe student loans of $100,000 or more on the very day they graduate from medical school. In most comparable countries, medical school is either free or considerably cheaper than in the U.S. Malpractice insurance is also many multiples less expensive than in the U.S. Moreover, lawsuits are much less common in countries outside of the U.S.

I believe now that it is clear to almost all, that the current system (if it can be called a system) of healthcare in the U.S. cannot continue unchecked as currently constituted. At this moment there is clearly not the political strength, will, nor energy to change it. And yet, costs continue to spiral out of control, so much so that recently, large companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan are investigating different approaches to health care for their employees. It is likely that cost alone, and not a moral obligation to care for its citizens will be the driving force for change.

In the last few weeks, we have presented an overview of healthcare systems in seven countries. All seven of these countries are highly industrialized and technologically advanced. Yet all seven have are less populated than the United States. Furthermore, the U.S. population is less homogenous than all the countries mentioned. According to an article in the Journal of Economic Growth (Journal of Economic Growth. 8: 195–222), the U.S. ranks 4th in ethnic and cultural diversity far above the other countries mentioned in this series. That said, the U.S. can learn much from these countries as we move forward in developing our own healthcare system. Whereas no single system mentioned in this series is likely to be a perfect fit for the U.S., there is little sense in reinventing the wheel. A system utilizing various aspects of each system will likely light the way, as we move forward.

Finally, I think that all may find it enlightening to make note of some of the features of the European Union Bill of Rights. It grants to all Europeans the right to a paid vacation, to a clean environment, to a high level of consumer protection to mention just a few. It is hardly surprising then that the European Charter also includes a right to health care.

Alan Stolier

 

Link to Part 1 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD

Link to Part 2 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD: PART 2 HEALTHCARE MODELS

Link to Part 3 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD: PART 3 FRANCE

Link to Part 4 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD: PART 4 GERMANY

Link to Part 5 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD: PART 5 JAPAN

Link to Part 6 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD: PART 6 UNITED KINGDOM

Link to Part 7 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD PART 7: TAIWAN

Link to Part 8 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD: PART 8 CANADA

Link to Part 9 HEALTHCARE AROUND THE WORLD PART 9: SWITZERLAND

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