Sick Around the World

PBS Frontline documentary Sick Around the World. The video above is part 1/8, you can follow the links to the rest on the YouTube site.

The Documentary goes to countries around the world to study their health care systems–Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan (which studied everyone else’s for their reforms a decade ago), and Switzerland.

The doc does a good job of showing the strengths and weaknesses of each system. e.g., Britain does preventive care very well but has longer wait times for surgeries. Japan has amazing care (including house calls!!!!) but the government is setting the prices too low and therefore many hospitals are in the red.

Canada where I live, which is not in the film, is suffering from a shortage of doctors.

The US however has the most expensive system in the world which ranks 37th. The lowest of industrialized countries by far. And again is the most expensive (the free market for you). You hear people in the movie say that health care is a right; I don’t think legally that is a good way to go (at least in the American context). Better to argue it is a legislated social good, i.e. something society places a priority on and wants to fund.

McCain’s push towards a more market friendly, Health Savings Account, and destruction of the employer model of health care (which I support but to replaced by something else, McCain just destroys and leaves nothing in its wake) does not get at a core flaw in the US system: the ability of HSA, insurance companies and the like to deny coverage based on prior conditions.

As you see in the movie all of the countries through different mechanisms force insurers to cover (as well as mandate citizens to have coverage). What you also notice in the documentary is that they are getting better care for their buck.

A key point the film makes is that the US has elements of all these systems as well as Third World reality (i.e. uninsured) in the country. The Third World side of American care is what causes the massive cost of this massively inefficient system. A system McCain’s policies would make only massively more inefficient btw.

Now that being said, government care which can include (a la Germany and Switzerland) huge amounts of privatization (clinics, doctors, hospitals, insurers) has flaws. Every system does. There is no perfection, but there is certainly better and much better.  I think for a number of reasons, especially for US, the German, Swiss (French are on this model in some variation as well) is more a way to go.  Over say the NHS in Britain or the Single Payer System in Canada (and with modifications Taiwan).

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Published in: on June 20, 2008 at 9:20 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. “I think for a number of reasons, especially for US, the German, Swiss (French are on this model in some variation as well) is more a way to go. Over say the NHS in Britain or the Single Payer System in Canada (and with modifications Taiwan).”

    exactly. the U.S. could learn a lot from how Taiwan did it (e.g. studied different health care system and make modifications based on their culture and government).

    here’s the link to the PBS:FRONTLINE site.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/

    there are more analysis and interviews to digest there 🙂 enjoy.

    ~C


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