There are thirty-two nations that provide healthcare to their citizens, absent from this list is the wealthiest nation in the world. But why exactly is that?
The Unique State of American Healthcare
The way American healthcare works is fairly unique when compared to the rest of the developed world. While most nations provide all of their citizens a base level of healthcare, the US leaves that almost entirely to the private sector. While some of these issues were patched over with the passage of the ACA, more popularly known as “Obamacare”, we still have fewer people covered, spend more, and receive worse outcomes than comparable nations.
How Does Insurance Work?
Before getting into the issues Americans face when accessing healthcare, it’s important to actually understand how insurance companies operate. If you’ve ever heard of unions, then you likely have at least a vague understanding of collective bargaining. That is, an individual lacks negotiating power, but a group of individuals has far more leverage. Insurance works in much the same way. In other nations, the government ensures its citizens and therefore has far more negotiating power than the US, which has thousands of individual insurance companies breaking up what would otherwise be a monopsony. This leads directly to the American consumer paying higher prices for the same level of care. But that isn’t the only thing sucking money out of your wallet.
Do We Really Pay More For Less?
This is a question that strikes at the heart of the matter. Often, a common response to someone advocating for baseline healthcare coverage is that the American healthcare system is more expensive because it’s better. But better how? And for who?
A Rich Man’s Dream
America absolutely has the best healthcare outcomes. For the rich. That’s why you hear about people flying in from other countries to have quicker access to surgeries or specialists they would otherwise have to wait for. In the United States, you can pay to cut in line. While this kind of pay-to-win system exists in nations that provide public insurance, it exists on a much smaller scale. Here, it’s the natural order of things. For the rest of us sitting on the middle rung, or even lower, our outcomes are a lot like theirs, poor.
Poor Wealth? Poor Health
Most of the people reading this will likely be somewhere in the middle of the income range, so you likely have a decent level of insurance. You aren’t treated like a king when you’re there, but when problems arise, you can get them taken care of. But even for people like you and me who have that level of access, our outcomes are worse than the citizens of other developed nations. We have less access to care, fewer practicing doctors, more obesity, and preventative illnesses than other OECD countries.
Parasites. Leeches. Vampires. Whatever detestable name you have for insurers, it fits the bill. In the United States, we pay over four times as much on administrative costs compared to Canada. $2497 per capita compared to $551. Sure, paperwork needs to get filed, prices need to be negotiated, and overhead needs to be paid. But us paying four times as much in administrative costs does not translate to better care when people like you and me wind up in the hospital. It just means another person making money off of you that doesn’t really need to be involved in the process at all.
For over 80 million Americans, government-backed insurance is one of the few things keeping them alive. They’re recipients of Medicare or Medicaid, or maybe a combination of both. If you aren’t a statistical anomaly, or extremely agoraphobic, you know someone who benefits from one of these programs. Whether they’re a friend, family member, or coworker. Something you might not know, however, is that private insurers are generally billed more than their government-backed counterparts.
Breaking the Bank
If you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy, then you’re likely one of the 66.5% of people who are aware of the most common cause. Medical debt. So for those who would argue, “I don’t want to pay for someone else’s healthcare!”, too bad, you already are. Unless you think a hospital should check your credit before you’re allowed to get anything done, people not paying their medical debt is directly baked into the price. So not only are you footing the bill for people who can’t afford it, you’re footing a much larger bill due to the previously mentioned ills that make our healthcare system one in which average citizens pay nearly twice as much as 10 other similarly situated countries.
Separating the Wheat From the Chaff
I generally consider myself a capitalist, but I’m a capitalist because I believe it’s an economic tool that generally organizes labor, goods, and services far better than other systems. But as a society, we have many tools at our disposal, and it’s important to use the right tool for the right job. And letting private industry control an inelastic good like healthcare at the detriment of the actual citizens isn’t freedom, it’s masochism. We have examples from all over the world of successful and popular public healthcare options provided to citizens, why can’t we do that? When I grew up, America was number 1. We led the world, socially, fiscally, and militarily. If you tell me that the richest nation in the world can’t provide affordable healthcare to its people, well I just wouldn’t believe you. That isn’t The United States I grew up in. We’re capable of anything, so why do we have such a limited public option?
Unless you have stock in one of the thousands of different corporations that make up our healthcare system, why would you want this to continue? We have lower lifespans, higher rates of hospitalization, and higher rates of death from preventable causes. You aren’t helping yourself by advocating against universal healthcare, you’re hurting yourself. You’re hurting friends. You’re hurting neighbors. And you’re hurting family. Look into the issues that affect you and yours, and push for change.