Healthcare reform is a contentious issue in American politics. While a few presidents—Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama—have signed laws that changed the American healthcare landscape, the system is still imperfect. With the new Trump administration, the future of healthcare policy remains unclear. Some of the changes (i.e. Medicare and the Affordable Care Act) may be in jeopardy.
Below are answers to some important questions about the American healthcare system. In order to play a part in the continuing conversation about healthcare reform, it’s important to understand the current status of the American healthcare system.
Question: What makes the American healthcare system different than other healthcare systems?
Answer: The American healthcare systems offers a lot of choice for potential insurance coverage, private plans, and public plans including Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans benefits, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Despite all of those choices, America is the only wealthy country without universal coverage. Additionally, the American healthcare system has higher usage of expensive medical technologies—like MRI machines.
Question: Where does the American healthcare system rank on the list of world healthcare systems?
Answer: The World Health Organization’s 2000 report ranks the American healthcare system as 37th in the world—behind every other wealthy country.
Question: How much does the United States spend on healthcare every year?
Answer: In 2013, the United States spent approximately $9,000 per resident (or 17.1% of the gross domestic product) on healthcare costs. France spent the second highest amount of money on healthcare, approximately $4,300 per resident and 11.6% of its GDP. With the lowest healthcare spending levels, the United Kingdom spent 8.8% of its GDP or approximately $3,300 per resident.
Question: Doesn’t higher spending means that Americans get better healthcare?
Answer: Not necessarily. The American healthcare systems provides quality care that is similar to the care provided by other wealthy countries.
Question: If the care is comparable, what are the higher costs for?
Answer: There isn’t one answer to this question. There are a range of contributing factors including: widespread use of expensive medical technology, the fee for service model, and higher volumes of patients.
Healthcare policy continues to be a contentious issue in American politics. Citizens, experts, and politicians have spent decades debating what changes will reform the system. Yet this is not simply an issue for the politicians. Stay informed about the discussion surrounding healthcare reform. These changes will eventually impact the lives (and futures) of many Americans.
Comparing International Health Care Systems. PBS News Hour, 26 October 2009, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/health-july-dec09-insurance_10-06/. Accessed January 22, 2017.
Murray, Christoper J.L., D Phil, and Julio Frank. Ranking 37th—Measuring the Performance of the U.S, Health Care System. The New England Journal of Medicine, 14 January 2010, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0910064. Accessed January 22, 2017.
The U.S. Health Care System: An International Perspective. Fact Sheet 2016. DPE. Department for Professional Employees. AFL-CIO, http://dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/the-u-s-health-care-system-an-international-perspective/, Accessed January 22, 2017.
U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective: Spending, Use of Services, Prices, and Health in 13 Countries. The Commonwealth Fund, http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective. Accessed January 22, 2017.
World Health Organization’s Ranking of the World’s Health Systems. The Patient Factor: Your Voice in the Health Care Equation, http://thepatientfactor.com/canadian-health-care-information/world-health-organizations-ranking-of-the-worlds-health-systems/. Accessed January 22, 2017.