Protesters holding signs advocating for healthcare reform.
Protesters holding signs advocating for healthcare reform.

It’s fairly well accepted that the United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, but many people (including Americans) continue to falsely assume that the U.S. pays more for healthcare because they get better health service (or better health outcomes). This simply is not true and there is no evidence to support it. The United States actually has one of the worst healthcare systems of any developed nation and the American HealthCare system is failing.

First off, before I get into the question of why our healthcare system sucks, I would like to point out that it is not because of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or unofficially “ObamaCare” that was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

The HealthCare in America prior to “ObamaCare” was arguably quite terrible. Especially when it’s compared to other developed nations. The healthcare system in America can be summarized as highly capitalistic and inefficient. This can be proven when you look at the statistics.

America's Health Disadvantage

Out of 17 developed nations that were taken into consideration, the United States placed last in almost all categories in terms of health service and healthcare. Look at the statistics of how much money the United States spends on healthcare. The U.S. spends on average, 5% more of our GDP on healthcare than most developed nations. In 2010, the U.S. spent approximately $2.7 Trillion or 17.6% of its GDP on healthcare while almost every other nation was under 12%. In a majority of cases, the U.S. spent double or triple and sometimes quadruple the amount of other developed nations on healthcare per capita. That should mean that the U.S. has a huge healthcare advantage, right? Well it doesn’t.

In 2008 the U.S. had the most deaths from disease and injury and continues to have the most deaths per capita due to disease and injury. It had the highest infant mortality rate. It has the lowest life expectancy out of other developed nations. As of last year, the U.S. also placed 2nd for most obese of developed nations in the world. The U.S. has the highest teenage pregnancy rate, the 2nd highest prevalence of HIV and the highest of AIDS and is also 2nd in deaths attributed to heart disease.

While of course this doesn’t mean that doctors and hospitals aren’t there to help people, but it means that the system is making a lot more money off of patients than what is required to run the hospital. This includes paying all the wages, running and buying all the equipment and paying off loans.

You can prove this again when you look to other countries. If you have an MRI for your neck here in the States, on average it’ll cost approximately $1500 (this price is actually the low-end of the range and when going into more dense cities or states, it’ll raise a lot more). Well, you think you’re getting a good deal right? Wrong.

If you go to Japan, the same exact MRI with similar equipment and the same expertise will run you approximately a whopping $100. This is because the Japanese Government set a price for MRI manufacturers to meet. The MRI manufacturers met that price and brought down the price of the machine as well as the cost to make it. The machines still work the same as the ones here and are just as efficient. Japan as well as other nations with cheaper machines export them but U.S. hospitals don’t buy them. This can be attributed to striving to have the newest and “best” equipment possible even though there are perfectly acceptable and cheaper alternatives available.

In many European countries the cost of healthcare is also substantially less than the healthcare in the United States. In a majority of the cases, patients don’t have to pay anything. This can be attributed to strict cost controls overseas, which actually drives innovation to cut down on how much a procedure or equipment will cost.

Well, at least in America you have shorter waiting times than the countries with universal healthcare systems, right? That’s also wrong. In several European countries like England, Switzerland, and Germany, the waiting time is much less than ours and in Japan you can just “drop by” and have your appointment that day. It may seem that waiting times can be lower in the U.S. but that’s because millions of people don’t have any health insurance at all and are not going to the doctor. Also, a large percentage of Americans who may have a medical issue decide to not go to seek help because it’ll cost too much (even if they are on a healthcare plan).

To further prove why the American healthcare system should emulate other nation’s systems, according to a Harvard Law Study approximately 700,000 Americans are forced into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. Whereas in France, Germany, Britain, and Japan, those numbers are all zero.

In the end, other healthcare systems are considered better because they are universal. Everyone within those countries (including tourists) have healthcare regardless of their income. Millions of people don’t have it at all in the United States. The key difference is that foreign health insurance plans exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.

Well what should we do about it then?

That’s where The Affordable Care Act or “ObamaCare” comes in. When it was first devised and put forward to Congress by the Obama Administration, The Affordable Care Act was a lot more like the universal healthcare systems from other developed nations. However, after going through Congress it really didn’t come out that way.

Previously to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions or had a medical condition in the past simply because they didn’t want to “lose” the money on then. That no longer exists.

As of 2013 there were around 44 million Americans who went without health insurance (about 16% of the population). The majority of uninsured are working families and those who simply cannot afford health insurance. One of the major things “ObamaCare” does is help these individuals get health insurance through expanding Medicaid eligibility and offering cost assistance through health insurance marketplace. By the end of open enrollment in 2014, less than 13% of Americans were uninsured.

While I didn’t cover everything that “ObamaCare” does and the new healthcare system may be on a slow roll right now and it may be receiving flak in Congress, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. These are just a few examples of why we need improvement and why the capitalistic healthcare system doesn’t work and why we shouldn’t take it absent mindedly anymore.

Protesters holding signs advocating for healthcare reform.
Protesters holding signs advocating for healthcare reform.

In summation, the American healthcare system is not ethical. The American healthcare system takes advantage of poor people, takes advantage of capitalism, and ultimately is not efficient at all. It’s easy to see why with the facts that were provided in this essay. The U.S. pays substantially more per capita on healthcare than every other developed nation in the world. The U.S. routinely ranks at the bottom of a majority of categories in healthcare when compared to other nations. This screams inefficiency because of the sheer amount of money spent on each citizen for healthcare in The United States and the low yield/return on their health. A lot of money and low health rankings means the system isn’t working correctly. That’s because of capitalism.  

The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage. Ultimately, it’s not ethical in any regard to allow health insurance companies and the healthcare system to make a profit by “selling” the health of American citizens.


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  2. Dude, you’re just misinformed. The Democrat-controlled Congress passed *exactly* the law *they* wrote and wanted, period. And all Obamacare has done is made the system worse. That’s just true.

    The way to create a better system is a) get govt. as far out of the equation as possible; b) make medical systems and health insurance companies compete for patients (yes, capitalism); because c) that will force them to offer better, cheaper services and products. This isn’t rocket science.

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