Sunday, March 7, 2010

Affordable & Universal Healthcare is Possible Part 3 of The Itch for Healthcare Reform

     Part one of The Itch for Healthcare Reform dealt with why America needs reform. Part two addressed the reasons for opposition to reform and why those reasons are not sound arguments. Now, part three will demonstrate that healthcare for everyone, with lower costs and better results, is possible and being done in other countries in the world.

     Much of what I've learned, but by no means all, about health care around the world came from two wonderful sources, both involving the same investigative journalist, T.R. Reid. I first saw a PBS Frontline special hosted by Mr. Reid called Sick Around the World. In this hour long show, Mr. Reid traveled the world looking at the different healthcare programs and asking doctors, government officials, and most importantly, the people what they thought of them. After seeing this program, I was inspired to learn more, and read a lot of articles about the subject, until finally, last fall, Mr. Reid's book, The Healing of America, was released. The book goes in more depth than the Frontline speical, and tackles a few other topics on the health-care debate. It is good reading, and I suggest the book to anyone who wants to learn more, especially those who are afraid of a healthcare system like the ones in Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, or Japan. Any reader will quickly see that we have much more to be afraid of than anyone getting healthcare in those countries. 

     The United States is ranked 37th by the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nation. The rating is based on many factors, including improving health, eliminating health disparities, and the systems ability to provide care without causing financial ruin to those it serves. The top ten in that list is as follows, with some other countries of note and their ranking:
1         France
2         Italy
3         San Marino
4         Andorra
5         Malta
6         Singapore
7         Spain
8         Oman
9         Austria
10        Japan
18        United Kingdom
25        Germany
30        Canada
37.       United States

     Another frequently referred to statistic is the overall life expectancy.  Here are the estimates by the United Nations:

1.  Japan                  82.6
2.  Hong Kong          82.2
3.  Iceland                81.8
4.  Switzerland          81.7
5.  Australia              81.2
6.  Spain                   80.9
7.  Sweden                80.9
8.  Israel                    80.7
9.  Macau                  80.7
10. France                 80.7
11. Canada                80.7
22. United Kingdom   79.4
23. Germany              79.4
38. United States        78.2

     Another valuable measure of the success or failure of a healthcare system is the Infant Mortality Rate. Here is a list of the lowest per 1000 births, according to the United Nations:

1.  Iceland          2.9
2.  Singapore      3.0
3.  Japan            3.2
4.  Sweden         3.2
5.  Norway         3.3
6.  Hong Kong    3.7
7.  Finland          3.7
8.  Czech Rep.   3.8
9.  Switzerland   4.1
10. S. Korea       4.1
12. France          4.2
14. Germany       4.3
22. UK               4.8
23. Canada          4.8
33. US                6.3

    Finally, the amount of money spent on healthcare as a part of the Gross Domestic Product. The US spends the most of any country in the world, despite the poor results as demonstrated above. Below are the top ten spenders in healthcare, by GDP, in 2005, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Health at a Glance, 2007:

1.  USA                    15.3%
2.  Switzerland          11.6
3.  France                 11.1
4.  Germany             10.7
5.  Canada                9.8
6.  Sweden               9.1
7.  UK                      8.3
8.  Japan                   8.0
9.  Mexico                6.4
10. Taiwan               6.2

To put the above numbers into perhaps a more understandable context, consider that the US spends about $7000 per person for healthcare, while Japan spends about $3000 per person. 

     So, while the US spends more than any other country in the world for healthcare, both as a percentage of GDP and a per capita dollar amount, we have much lower performance by nearly all measures.  And the trend continues towards more expensive care, with fewer people having access to it. It seems more and more clear to any results oriented person that the healthcare system in the United States is falling short on many levels.
     Next, part four of The Itch for Healthcare Reform on healthcare will review how some other countries are able to provide better care to their citizens overall, while spending significantly less money than the United States.  

1 comment:

Cliff said...

I sure wish the main stream media would inform the general public of this stuff. It's a no brainer and the way you put it makes it easy for everyone to understand.