The American Health Care System is Most Expensive but not the Best in the World

No doubt, the United States has gained enough attention on the amount it spends on health care every year. Ten years ago, it was documented that America spends $4,178 per capita per year on health care (Chua 5) with the second greatest spender spending almost just half of what this country spends. Switzerland, which then held second place in health care spending, spent only $2,794 per capita per year on health care. Up to the present, 15% of this country’s GDP goes to health care while most of developed countries spend only an average of 8.

6% of their GDP on health care (Chua 5). By far, the United States is the greatest health care spender among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. In spite of the whopping amount that goes to health care each year, it could be argued that Americans spend a lot on health care without providing the best possible health services to Americans. This is the position that shall be defended in this paper. To be able to show that the American Health Care System lags behind in spite of spending, it will be best to first establish certain standards.

For this paper, the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO) should be used. In 2001, WHO pegged the goals of world health care into three: good health, responsiveness, and fairness in financing (WHO in Bureau of Labor Education of the University of Maine 1). By good health, WHO simply refers to having desirable health for the citizens within the expected life cycle. This would mean the availability of health services that could aid the citizens live a flourishing life from birth until death.

Responsiveness, on the other hand, refers to “the extent to which caregivers are responsive to the client/patient expectations with regard to non-health areas such as being treated with dignity and respect” (Bureau of Labor and Education o the University of Maine 6). Fairness in financing refers to a health care system that makes the less privilege also spend less. This means probably having payment caps or similar services that relieves the less privileged of health expenses. Given such, we could now look at how the American Health Care System measures up to such a standard.

In spite of America’s big spending on health care, more than 50% of spending is still done by private entities: 35. 8% are paid for by private insurance (American Hospital Association 6). Consumers’ out-of-pocket spending on health care account for 13. 7% of the 2003 health care expenditure, while other private expenditure account for 4. 8% of the expenditure (American Hospital Association 6). In spite of the very large per capita spending of the state on health care, out-of-pocket spending and other private expenditure are still big.

This probably may not be a very bad thing, but in spite of all the money going to health care, a large 15% of non-elderly adults do not have access to health care since this population is uninsured (Chua 1). Converted to numbers, this amounts of millions of non-elderly American adults who through some reason were unable to get either a publicly or privately funded insurance. This puts this population at risk, millions of potentially or actually productive Americans whose health is at risk because of some faulty health care system.

If millions of non-elderly adults are at a health risk due to lack of access to health care, the elderly also have their own share of problems in health care. It is true that the

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elderly aged 65 and above have access to Medicare. This means that the seniors have access to hospital services, physician services, as well as prescription drug services (Chua 2). This sounds all good but there are geriatric needs that are not covered by Medicare. This forces the elderly to avail of premiums that would make their Medicare account more useful for geriatric needs.

The premium account would make the senior citizen have access to nursing facilities; preventive care coverage; and coverage for dental, hearing, or vision care. As such, the elderly would have to spend a total of 22% of their income for the cost of health care (Chua 2). It could be noticed that the premium account covers services that should be basic for the elderly. These services may be optional for younger populations but these become real needs for people aged 65 and above.

As such, it becomes a source of wonder why an insurance card that is designed for the elderly and the disabled requires an account upgrade for services like nursing facilities, dental, hearing, and vision care. The United States ranks poorly in infant mortality rate compared to other OECD countries: it ranked 26th in infant mortality rate among the industrialized countries (Bureau of Labor Education in the University of Maine 5). This speaks of a big problem somewhere in the health care system that fails to save infants in instances that ought to be curable.

America also ranked 24th among the OECD countries on disability-adjusted life expectancy rate. This means that many Americans are expecting to live a part of their lives as disabled. This should not come as a surprise since millions of Americans do not have good access to health care. Given the above reasons, America spends too much but inefficiently. We may have the biggest spending rate on health care but America is far from being the best health care service provider in the world. Works Cited American Hospital Association. 2005.

Overview of the US health care system. Database online. <September 22, 2007> http://www. aha. org/aha/issues/CBHCS/index. html. Bureau of Labor Education of the University of Maine. 2001. “The US healthcare system: best in the world or just most expensive? ” Chua, Kao-Ping. 2006. “Overview of the US Health Care System” under the AMSA Jack Routledge Fellowship. <September 22, 2007> http://www. amsa. org/uhc/CaseForUHC. ppt. 2007. “Health Care in the United States. ” <September 22, 2007> http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Health_care_in_the_United_States.

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