Why America’s Healthcare Model Is So Inferior
America spends 17% of its GDP on healthcare, which is over 50% higher than the next two developed nations Taiwan and Switzerland which are 11% of GDP. The financial metrics are only one part of looking at the input and outcomes of the health-care system, one must factor in availability, longevity, ease of use, obesity, happiness, and preventive policies. Unfortunately, America falls short on every aspect of the system. Improving our healthcare system is not just about changing the mechanics, but re-educating the American people with a more enlightened culture that some “Socialism” coupled with Capitalism and viewing the country in terms of Solidarity and Community is preferential to rugged individualism and a gated community mentality. The above is the very reason why the more progressive and communal Europeans and Asians have been immensely more successful in bringing about a superior healthcare system. Once we re-educate the American people we can proceed with a healthcare model that has a much better return on investment with better outcomes.
“Imitation is the best form of flattery”, so let us look at the successful healthcare models of other developed nations and imitate their structures. The solution is not just a horizontal restructuring, but changes that take into account how we protect the environment, have more transparent consumer protections, how we educate doctors, how we promote healthy nutrition and exercise, teach nutrition in schools, and other factors that affect health both directly and indirectly. The “Nanny State” mentality has mainly positive outcomes with the exception that it may bruise some peoples egos. As far as I’m concerned egos are worthless destructive emotional baggage.
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The old school pyramid of healthy eating that promoted the financial interests of the powerful meat and dairy industry are being upended with better present-day science that says that diets high in unprocessed plant-based foods, with minimal ingestion of meat, dairy, and processed sugar and carbohydrate is best for health and longevity. The old heavy “Meat and Potatoes” diets are not best. With major concerns about drastic increases in greenhouse gases, meat and dairy production, which contributes to inefficient food use and over one-fifth of methane gases which are 85 times as toxic as CO2 to the heat insulating layer of the atmosphere.
European countries have stricter warning labels on food, cigarettes, and alcohol. For example, the European warning label in some countries simply state “Smoking Kills”, but in America, the corporations want to soften the message so that their sales of these toxic poisons are not diminished. I quite frankly do not have a resistance to “Nanny State” messages that improve peoples health by reducing obesity, smoking, and use of toxic substances. A person’s ego feeling bruised by a “Nanny State” resistance is childish. After all just because someone is an adult does not automatically give them good sense. Health dysfunction effects everyone, we are not autonomous islands.
Medicare has been proven to be one of the best healthcare models in America. It has the advantage of eliminating for-profit insurance that has an overhead of 20%, while Medicare’s cost of overhead for processing claims and billings is 2 to 3%. With private insurance doctor and hospital, overhead is much higher and do to a lack of efficiency in being able to process claims efficiently. Let’s just say that there is 15% to 20% that can eliminate health care costs by going to Medicare for all. Another benefit of Medicare is that it requires bidding on the lowest cost drug prescriptions.
The ACA (“Obamacare”) was a band-aid attempt to improve our healthcare, which it did for many. There are still millions that do not have adequate coverage or any at that rate. We as voters have allowed the AMA, Big Pharma, and Insurance companies to bribe Congress so that the ACA was corrupted and watered down.
Eyecare, Dental, Mental, Preventative, and Lifestyle education should all be incorporated into one healthcare model. The above are all important ingredients in having a healthy body. It is inefficient and ridiculous to separate out these regimens into different health care categories and coverages.
The United States is one of the few developed nations that does not cover a doctor’s medical education unless they make a long-term commitment to work for the military. As a result, many medical students graduate with a burdensome debt which must be factored into their need for higher doctor salaries and medical billing fees. Malpractice insurance for some medical specialties can reach $100,000 per year. Many developed nations with single payor healthcare provide no-cost malpractice insurance and billing services for the doctors’ services, therefore reducing the cost of practitioners overhead.
Due to our high cost of healthcare which is bundled into employee remuneration, we are less competitive in the world marketplace. For example, if a private insurance policy costs an employer or small business owner $20,000 per year the same benefit and more can be easily delivered by a single payer system for $13,000 to $15,000 per family. I do not mind paying higher taxes if the net result is that I have full coverage, working or not, at a lower cost than private insurance and no-bid high priced drugs.
The regressive culture of individualism, fear of Socialism, a need to build profit into every good and service provided in America makes our healthcare costs much higher than any other country. Unfortunately, the outcomes of our poor health care system result in shorter lifespans and poorer health and happiness compared to other developed nations. We as a people can choose to change our cultural habits and educate ourselves about the benefits of universal single-payer healthcare.
Cover image cartoon by David Parkins via The Economist