Monday, July 13, 2009

NY Times poll: Americans DO WANT government-run health care program; overview of national health care programs

A front page June 21, 2009 "New York Times" story by Kevin Sack and Marjorie Connelly, "Poll Finds Wide Support for Idea Of Government-Run Health Plan" reports that "The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector."
"85 percent of respondents said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt."
Inside this "Times" issue, on page 20, appears a chart with more results from the survey. 72 percent of respondents, said "favor" to this question: "Would you favor or oppose the government's offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans?"

65 percent of respondents answered, "Providing for the uninsured," to the question, "Which is a more serious problem right now: keeping health care costs down or providing health insurance for Americans who do not have any?" 26 percent answered, "Keeping costs down."

The leading source of family bankruptcy in the United States is out-of-pocket costs for health emergencies. Every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem. Increasing percentages of Americans are uninsured --despite being employed. Employers often devise schemes, such as hiring people only part-time, so as to prevent employees from qualifying for health care. The United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations.

Some thing is wrong with this system.

* * *

The media and far too many politicians invoke the same argument against health care, often citing only the British health care program. Yet, they ignore the fact that every other industrialized country (European or comparable Asian country, e.g., Japan or South Korea) has a national health care plan.
Indeed, some developing countries have national health care systems, see this wikipedia article citing the systems in Colombia and Ghana.
The British system is unique in that the doctors are employees of the national government. This is not the only possible path to a national health care system.

See the wikipedia article, "Health care system," at the section on "health care by country." In particular, see the section on France. France has a mix of public and private health care. Most doctors are in private practices; there are public and private hospitals. The nation's social security system has organizations that fund public and private health care providers. As the article states, "It generally refunds patients 70% of most health care costs, and 100% in case of costly or long-term ailments." The World Health Organization in a 2000 study of health care internationally, rated France's national health system as being the best system. (See this WHO report, "World Health Organization Assesses the World's Health Systems.")
"The World Health Organization has carried out the first ever analysis of the world's health systems. Using five performance indicators to measure health systems in 191 member states, it finds that France provides the best overall health care followed among major countries by Italy, Spain, Oman, Austria and Japan. . . . . In Europe, health systems in Mediterranean countries such as France, Italy and Spain are rated higher than others in the continent."

The American system is a failure by the financial fairness measure. The WHO report described the issue thusly,
Fairness of financial contribution: When WHO measured the fairness of financial contribution to health systems, countries lined up differently. The measurement is based on the fraction of a household's capacity to spend (income minus food expenditure) that goes on health care (including tax payments, social insurance, private insurance and out of pocket payments). Colombia was the top-rated country in this category, followed by Luxembourg, Belgium, Djibouti, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Japan and Finland.

And note the following WHO comparison of a few North American systems, and the United States' place in this comparison:
In North America, Canada rates as the country with the fairest mechanism for health system finance – ranked at 17-19, while the United States is at 54-55. Cuba is the highest among Latin American and Caribbean nations at 23-25

Interested in greater detail from the WHO health care system study?:
"Copies of the Report can be ordered from"

We cannot afford national health care? Looks like we already cannot afford the system we currently have. Compare the health care costs; and note the costs for the United States.
"In 2005, France spent 11.2% of GDP on health care, or US$3,926 per capita. Of that, approximately 80% was government expenditure."
"In 2005, Italy spent 8.9% of GDP on health care, or US$2,714 per capita. Of that, approximately 76% was government expenditure."
"In 2005, the Netherlands spent 9.2% of GDP on health care, or US$3,560 per capita. Of that, approximately 65% was government expenditure."
"In 2005, Sweden spent 9.2% of GDP on health care, or US$3,727 per capita. Of that, approximately 82% was government expenditure."
"In 2005, the United States spent 15.2% of GDP on health care, or US$6,347 per capita. Of that, approximately 45% was government expenditure."
(These data are from the wikipedia article, "Health care system," retrieved July 13, 2009.)

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