Health care in the United States of America is extremely inefficient and leaves much room for improvement. According to National Priorities Project, in 2015 the Federal Government spent 27.72% of its budget or $1.05 trillion dollars on Medicare and health (National Priorities Project). Not only does the USA spend the most money on health care of any other country in the world, it also spends the most per capita as well, with over $2000 more spent per person than the country with the second highest per capita health budget (Peter G. Peterson Foundation). With such a large amount of financial resources allocated to health care, one would assume that the services provided to its citizens are top notch; however that is not the case. The United States ranks only 37th on the World Health Organization’s list of the World’s Health Systems, after such countries as Colombia (number 22), Chile (number 33), and Saudi Arabia (number 26) (World Health Organization). The country that ranks the top of WHO’s list is France. France provides universal health coverage through social health insurance contributions from employers and employees. Although patients pay their own medical bills, they are reimbursed by sickness insurance funds.
Some Americans believe that a socialized health system would be even more expensive and less efficient than what is currently in place; nonetheless, France (and many other countries but specifically France), proves that a country can provide stellar service while spending drastically less than the US. Furthermore, though France has in many ways socialized its health care, it is still able to use markets to create competition across public and private hospitals, which provides incentives for quality of care and innovation (which many Americans are worried about losing in a state funded system). Unlike in other socialized systems like Britain's National Health Service, the French government does not own all healthcare infrastructure. Indeed, while some hospitals are publicly owned, many are private and for-profit. There are even publicly-traded hospital chains, like in the U.S. Though the private sector is highly regulated, the centrist policies that France has adopted, which combines (semi) free markets with state ownership has proven to work very well. If a country spends too little of its budget and the government sets prices for services too low, doctors and the medical industry will be disadvantaged and their practices will lose money, like in Japan (a country where private medical practices are legal bound to charge at or below certain prices for medical services) (Public Broadcasting Service). Or, if a country has very few price controls and leaves it up to the markets, then many of its citizens may end up going bankrupt just trying to keep their loved ones alive, like in the United States (Mangan, Dan). Either path is unsustainable. Thus, a country should spend enough money to make working in the health sector a desirable prospect and pay for its citizens but leave enough of the actual mechanics of health care up to the free market to encourage competition to drive down prices.
Additionally, it is absolutely vital that the United States switches to a model of healthcare that is more about preemptive preventative care rather than what we currently have, which is effectively an emergency triage model. If rates of preventable diseases like smoking related illnesses (which cost the US $300 billion each year) or obesity related illnesses (which annually cost the US $190.2 billion or nearly 21% of annual medical spending in the United States) were to fall, the government would have ample surplus to pay for ailments such as cancer, heart attack, diabetes, or chronic asthma or other circumstances (like having a baby), which would ideally be free or require minimal co-pays (National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families). In France, costs from long-term or major medical situations like these are all fully reimbursable by the social security system, provided the fees and charges are made at the official rate. Although no existing system of health care is without drawbacks, it is unlikely that the perfect system will ever be discovered. Yet, it would be remiss to ignore the definitive hierarchy in the effectiveness of different countries’ health systems. Since the US spends the most in total and per capita on health, but does not receive the best care, it is clear that throwing money at the problem won’t solve it, switching to a new system (or radically altering the current one) is. Change is almost always intimidating and this case is no exception; nevertheless, all evidence suggests that maintaining the inadequacies of the status quo should be even more of a disquieting proposition then exploring the frontiers of creating a cheaper and superior health care system for all.
“Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go.” National Priorities Project, www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/.
Per Capita Healthcare Costs - International Comparison.” Peter G. Peterson Foundation, 4 Feb. 2015.
Tandon, Ajay, et al. “MEASURING OVERALL HEALTH SYSTEM PERFORMANCE FOR 191 COUNTRIES.”
“SICK AROUND THE WORLD.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 18 Apr. 2008.
Mangan, Dan. “Biggest Cause of Personal Bankruptcies? Medical Bills.” CNBC, CNBC, 24 July 2013.
“Economic Cost of Obesity.” Healthy Communities for a Healthy Future Economic Costs of Obesity Comments, National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families.