By Sherylle Estrellas
Across the world, many developed countries supply universal health care, allowing everyone the health coverage and service he or she needs at no or little cost to the consumer. Meanwhile, America, among the most developed and richest countries in the world, still has yet to implement an equitable and efficient health care coverage system. Although the Affordable Care Act means to improve the system, one can only wonder why it has taken so long for America to change its ways. Economist Victor Fuchs suggests a few reasons why.
Overall, American health care has shown to be the most expensive among countries of the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD). In comparison, America spends 2.5 times as much on health care than other OECD countries, spending about 17.6% of its GDP on health. In this country, hospital services cost approximately 85% more than the OECD average, physicians have higher incomes, and we’re using more tests and technologies. We’re paying more for care, and yet as a nation, we still exhibit lower life expectancy than other countries spending significantly less than us. Paying more for services does not necessarily ensure better care or improved national health statistics.
A second reason is that America lacks equal distribution of health due to the lack of “egalitarian ethos” of other countries. Consumers all contribute to one pool of health financing mechanism, where some will make use of the services more often than others. American health care does not display this type of prospective redistribution of care. It is suggested that America’s individualist ideals ruin the possibility for redistribution.
Lastly, the American government has no bargaining power over health care and implements very little cost control. In other countries, the government is responsible for 70%-90% of health expenditures, whereas in America, it is responsible for 50%. In comparison to other countries, America has very little cost containment. Other countries run on a set fee schedule, where every service costs around the same amount. If services begin to get out of budget, there is flexibility towards changing those costs. This is the opposite of the rigid American structure, with so many different profit-seeking players in healthcare.
Stated more bluntly, America is greedy. There are so many different players in health care, from physicians, administrators, to insurance providers, all with their own agenda’s for making profits. Why else would everything cost so much? And then there are the consumers. Some will pay more than others for services he or she will not even use, and some will pay nothing and be subsidized by those who bought in. It seems like the ideas of freedom and choice really resonate in relation to health care, where everyone just does what he or she wants, out of self-interest. The statements I am making are very generalized, but the state of America health care concerns me. As a consumer, I have nothing to worry about. I’m a middle class American, who under the Affordable Care Act can still be a dependant under my parents’ insurance. And I’m sure that’s how a lot of Americans feel – secure, and therefore, find no need to be concerned. However, as a future health care provider, I worry. I feel like this is a topic where if one is informed, he or she can really see the problems with American health care. Universal access to care can mean so much to so many different populations. The elderly will be cared for after they retire, the impoverished will be subsidized when they cannot afford care, and emergency care can be provided without the shock of expensive hospital bills. If we truly are a country of liberty, we should not to be bound by the fear of being unable to receive coverage or of exorbitant hospital bills. And if we truly are a country of united peoples, we should be concerned not just with our well-being, but the common good of the nation as a whole. The Affordable Care Act is making it possible for the nation to work towards universal care. It may not be perfect, and it is unfortunate that America has taken to long to work towards it, but it’s a start.
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