Warning: May Cause Dizziness, Nausea and Bankruptcy: The Financial Side Effects of the American Health Care Model.


Side effects

Compared with other wealthy nations, US health care policy offers a lot less bang for its buck. Our system is one with subpar returns for the exorbitant amounts of monetary input. We have overall low coverage, less than stellar health outputs and above-average bankruptcy rates among the uninsured and the insured.  Essentially, we are spending much more for far less return while adding the burden of debt to our citizens.

It’s well documented that our stratospheric health spending is double what our Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) counterparts spend while giving us fewer results. For example, our infant mortality rates are higher, life expectancy is lower and overall population health is lagging. In the 2007 World Health Organization health-care ranking, the US ranked far behind most developed nations at number 37.[1] France, which ranked first, has a system that uses a mix of public and private mechanisms to pay for its universal healthcare. While arguably, we could say that the French are a bit odd with their plaster prescriptions for stomach aches, the reality is that they have far better health outputs (including patient satisfaction) for overall lower costs! Comparative analyses among cities similar in population also reveal huge disparities in international health care among the poor and lower middle class population. We see higher rates of avoidable hospital admission among New Yorkers than we do Parisians, Londoners and Hong Kongnese.[2] This waste in productivity due in part to Americas system not valuing preventative and primary care as much as the studies counterparts.

So how do places like France finance and maintain such a great system? Their system offers the same basic coverage to every citizen through national insurance funds; Every single employee and employer contributes. If you’re not covered through work or a family member, the government still pays for you to have basic coverage. There are no deductibles, only reasonable copayments. This isn’t to say that the healthcare system in France isn’t without its flaws. As the current population ages with birthrates staying low, France is experiencing rising healthcare costs as well. Compared to the American model, however, they are spending around 11% of their GDP on healthcare while the US spends over 17%.[3]

US health Spending chart

In France, if you or a loved one requires major treatment for conditions like cancer or heart disease, you are either treated for free or have a very high amount of your costs reimbursed. A 2006 survey conducted by The Keiser Family Foundation and The Harvard School of Public Health found that among American cancer patients and their families: “One quarter say they used up all or most of their savings, and one in ten report being unable to pay for basic necessities like food, heat, and housing.”[4]

In the United States, cancer treatments as well as other major–and minor– healthcare costs can result in bankruptcy.[5] This is just one of the additional side effects that has become endemic  in receiving medical treatment in America.

 #GlobalHealth #Healthcare #Publichealth


[2] Gusmano MK, Rodwin VR, Weisz D. A new way to compare health systems: avoidable hospital conditions in Manhattan and Paris. Health Aff 2006;25:510-20

[3] OECD (2012), “OECD Health Data: Health Care Utilisation”, OECD Health Statistics (database).

[5] Ke Xu, David B. Evans, Guido Carrin, Ana Mylena Aguilar-Rivera, Philip Musgrove, Timothy Evans: Protecting Households from Catastrophic Health Spending. Health Aff (Millwood) 2007 Jul–Aug; 26(4): 972–983. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.26.4.972ding. 


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