The United States should copy and adapt an improved healthcare system based upon analysis of international systems. This article will review the last attempt at a universal healthcare policy (Medicare for All) and then some of the more successful healthcare systems in the world will be reviewed. Here is a 180 page document that reviews health systems around the world in 2015
Medicare for All
A number of proposals have been made for a universal single-payer healthcare system in the United States, most recently the United States National Health Care Act, (popularly known as H.R. 676 or “Medicare for All”) but none have achieved more political support than 20% congressional co-sponsorship. Advocates argue that preventative health care expenditures can save several hundreds of billions of dollars per year because publicly funded universal health care would benefit employers and consumers, that employers would benefit from a bigger pool of potential customers and that employers would likely pay less, and would be spared administrative costs of health care benefits. It is also argued that inequities between employers would be reduced. Also, for example, cancer patients are more likely to be diagnosed at Stage I where curative treatment is typically a few outpatient visits, instead of at Stage III or later in an emergency room where treatment can involve years of hospitalization and is often terminal. Others have estimated a long-term savings amounting to 40% of all national health expenditures due to preventative health care although estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and The New England Journal of Medicine have found that preventative care is more expensive.
Any national system would be paid for in part through taxes replacing insurance premiums, but advocates also believe savings would be realized through preventative care and the elimination of insurance company overhead and hospital billing costs. An analysis of a single-payer bill by Physicians for a National Health Program estimated the immediate savings at $350 billion per year. The Commonwealth Fund believes that, if the United States adopted a universal health care system, the mortality rate would improve and the country would save approximately $570 billion a year.
In 2013, a fiscal study by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst was made for Medicare of All. There would even be money left over to help pay down the national debt, he said. Friedman says his analysis shows that a nonprofit single-payer system based on the principles of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676, introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and co-sponsored by 44 other lawmakers, would save an estimated $592 billion in 2014. That would be more than enough to cover all 44 million people the government estimates will be uninsured in that year and to upgrade benefits for everyone else.
Under the single-payer system created by HR 676, the U.S. could save an estimated $592 billion annually by slashing the administrative waste associated with the private insurance industry ($476 billion) and reducing pharmaceutical prices to European levels ($116 billion). In 2014, the savings would be enough to cover all 44 million uninsured and upgrade benefits for everyone else. No other plan can achieve this magnitude of savings on health care.
Specifically, the savings from a single-payer plan would be more than enough to fund $343 billion in improvements to the health system such as expanded coverage, improved benefits, enhanced reimbursement of providers serving indigent patients, and the elimination of co-payments and deductibles in 2014. The savings would also fund $51 billion in transition costs such as retraining displaced workers and phasing out investor- owned, for-profit delivery systems.
World Health Systems Compared
Israel has a system with government payment but with four competing service providers. Israel costs are half the USA.
Singapore has some of the best health results and among the lowest healthcare costs by percent of GDP. Singapores overall GDP costs are four times less than the USA.
Hong Kong has early health education, professional health services, and well-developed health care and medication system. The life expectancy is 84 for females and 78 for males, which is the second highest in the world, and 2.94 infant mortality rate, the fourth lowest in the world.
There are two medical schools in Hong Kong, and several schools offering courses in traditional Chinese medicine. The Hospital Authority is a statutory body that operates and manages all public hospitals. Hong Kong has high standards of medical practice. It has contributed to the development of liver transplantation, being the first in the world to carry out an adult to adult live donor liver transplant in 1993
Israel has a system of universal healthcare as set out by the 1995 National Health Insurance Law. The state is responsible for providing health services to all residents of the country, who can register with one of the four national health service funds. To be eligible, a citizen must pay a health insurance tax. Coverage includes medical diagnosis and treatment, preventive medicine, hospitalization (general, maternity, psychiatric and chronic), surgery and transplants, preventive dental care for children, first aid and transportation to a hospital or clinic, medical services at the workplace, treatment for drug abuse and alcoholism, medical equipment and appliances, obstetrics and fertility treatment, medication, treatment of chronic diseases and paramedical services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Prior to the law’s passage over 90% of the population was already covered by voluntarily belonging to one of four nationwide, not-for-profit sickness funds which operated some of their own medical facilities and were funded in part by employers and the government and in part by the insured by levies which varied according to income. However, there were three problems associated with this arrangement. First, membership in the largest fund, Clalit, required one to belong to the Histadrut labor organization, even if a person did not wish to (or could not) have such an affiliation while other funds restricted entry to new members based on age, pre-existing conditions or other factors. Second, different funds provided different levels of benefit coverage or services to their members and lastly was the issue mentioned above whereby a certain percentage of the population, albeit a small one, did not have health insurance coverage at all.
Before the law went into effect, all the funds collected premiums directly from members. However, upon passage of the law, a new progressive national health insurance tax was levied through Bituah Leumi (Israel’s social security agency) which then re-distributes the proceeds to the sickness funds based on their membership and its demographic makeup. This ensured that all citizens would now have health coverage. While membership in one of the funds now became compulsory for all, free choice was introduced into movement of members between funds (a change is allowed once every six months), effectively making the various sickness funds compete equally for members among the populace.
Singapore spends just 4.7 percent of its GDP on health care (World Bank Health Data, 2014). Cost is controlled in a number of ways, perhaps foremost by the manner in which the government both fosters and controls competition—intervening when the market fails to keep costs down. Public and private hospitals exist side by side, with the public sector having the advantage of patient incentives and subsidies. Because it regulates prices for public hospital services and regulates the number of public hospitals and beds, the government is able to shape the marketplace. Within this environment, the private sector must be careful not to price itself out of the market.
At the same time, the government sets subsidy and cost-recovery targets for each hospital ward class, thereby indirectly keeping public sector hospitals from producing excess profits. Hospitals are also given annual budgets for patient subsidies, so they know in advance the levels of reimbursement they will receive for patient care.
Within their budgets, hospitals are required to break even.
Singapore currently has the second lowest infant mortality rate in the world and among the highest life expectancies from birth, according to the World Health Organization. Singapore has “one of the most successful healthcare systems in the world, in terms of both efficiency in financing and the results achieved in community health outcomes,” according to an analysis by global consulting firm Watson Wyatt. Singapore’s system uses a combination of compulsory savings from payroll deductions (funded by both employers and workers) a nationalized health insurance plan, and government subsidies, as well as “actively regulating the supply and prices of healthcare services in the country” to keep costs in check; the specific features have been described as potentially a “very difficult system to replicate in many other countries.” Many Singaporeans also have supplemental private health insurance (often provided by employers) for services not covered by the government’s programs
Virtually all of Europe has either publicly sponsored and regulated universal health care or publicly provided universal healthcare. The public plans in some countries provide basic or “sick” coverage only, with their citizens being able to purchase supplemental insurance for additional coverage. Countries with universal health care include Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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