One of the key aspects of human efficiency is making decisions based on facts, data, and nonideological logic. This is a critical aspect of having an efficient government and political system. In this post, we will begin to look at the true story behind health care in the U.S.
Before we can look into healthcare, we have to define two terms commonly used to describe systems overall: universal coverage and single-payer. Universal coverage refers to a system where every individual has coverage which means that those who cannot afford to pay for insurance get subsidized by someone, typically the government. On the other hand, single-payer refers to a system where one entity is responsible for paying claims, usually the government. It is interesting to note that the healthcare systems in Canada and European countries are all different in the way they are run with some being a combination of public and private systems.
As has been mentioned many times during the last presidential campaign, the U.S. is one of the only developed countries without a universal coverage health care program. And the more that you look at the data comparing what we have compared to that in other countries such as in Europe and Canada, the fact that we still have the mess that we have is shocking.
It should be noted that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had better statistics that the previous plan and the one that we are likely to go back to with the Republican plan because more people were insured and it actually got more people to pay for at least a portion of their insurance, even though some was subsidized. Something is better than nothing.
Here are some health care statistics comparing the U.S. to other countries:
- The average annual per person medical spending is much higher in the U.S., in some cases double that of other countries. Depending on where you get the data, the average person in the U.S. spends over $8,000 on health care/year (2013 data). This could easily be reduced to about $4,000/year by doing what everyone else does. In other words, we could reduce our health care costs by 40-50%.
- The U.S. health care system ranked lowest among 11 industrialized countries in 2014.
- The people in many other countries with universal coverage don’t have a deductible or copay.
- The U.S. has the highest rate of uninsured. Most other countries have almost none.
- The U.S. has the highest rate of medical bankruptcies. Most other countries have almost none.
So, looking at this data anybody would ask: why in the world are we not copying what other countries are doing? The big reason is that some feel that the government should not be able to force people to get health insurance if they do not want it and that it should not be run by the government.
The trouble with this argument is that we are all paying for the uninsured and underinsured. In 2013, $84.9 billion in uncompensated care was provided to uninsured individuals. It is estimated that the uninsured cost an average of $900 per patient in hospital costs. In addition, the biggest reason for bankruptcies in the U.S. is not being able to pay medical bills, often by people who have insurance.
When the hospitals and doctors do not get paid, either though bankruptcies or other forms of non-payment, eventually someone has to pay. It is not like the costs magically disappear. These costs are paid for either by the government through higher taxes or passed on through higher fees to customers who do pay their bills, namely you and I. In other words, we are all paying the cost for the uninsured and underinsured.
Other costs include the cost of inefficiency in our system, such as advertising and the games insurance companies have to play to negotiate each doctor bill, not to mention the billions of dollars of insurance company profits. These are all reasons why we pay so much more for our health care system.
The key point is that we pay much more than anyone else for health insurance because we have an inefficient system where we are paying for others who do not contribute to the insurance bucket and then cannot pay their bills.
In upcoming posts, I will look in more detail at the programs in Europe and Canada. The goal is to educate everyone about what we are doing in this country regarding our health system. We can no longer allow extreme ideology to make our decisions for us when facts and data prove that it is costing us so much money.
Next: U. S. Health Care Compared to Canada