Over the years, the health care system of many nations has evolved. The changes, some good and some bad, can be attributed to the cultural view of health care, situational factors, employee insurance coverage of health care and other economic factors. The most important factor that has changed, especially in the ever-growing US health care market, has been the spiraling costs of such care. Employers have been under greater burden of providing for the ever-rising costs of medical care and are trying to reduce such burden through covering less, covering fewer persons, passing the increases onto employees, or simply doing away with health care benefits altogether. Most insurance plans have now excluded family members of the employee from the coverage, leaving the family to deal with high medical costs or opting for sub-standard medical care (Conklin, 2002).
A major switch has been from required health care leading through the emergency room to lab tests to specialized physicians, to a system of Managed Health Care that leaves a greater focus on prevention and healthy lifestyles (Conklin, 2002). Such a regime guarantees a better and healthier population on the whole with a greater focus on cost containment.
Ridic, Gleason, & Ridic (2012) have provided an explicit comparison of the health care system of US with other developed nations such as Germany and Canada. The basic difference stems from the government’s role in providing health care. Canada has a government-run health insurance program that provides coverage for the entire population. Such a system is financed through general taxpayers’ income and aims to maintain that health care is universal. Germany, on the other hand, has its health care provisions stemming from the concept of social solidarity. The government is thought to be obliged to provide a wide range of social benefits to the citizens. However, the US health care system has no single nationwide health insurance. Health insurance there is purchased in the private market, usually by corporations, and then is provided to employees as a job perk. Some insurance are given out by the government again as a perk to employees in the public sector. At the outset, the US health care system appears to be a profit run system where the costs of medical care are intricately examined and covered, whereas, that of the other two nations appears to be a very generous, all-encompassing one. However, it should not be forgotten that every policy has its own set of pros and cons.
The Canadian government provided medical product is in the truest sense of the word “FREE” for the customer. Being free of cost makes it loose value and is thus used inefficiently. Germany too has third party payments to insurance providers making demand unnecessarily high and supply uncontrolled. Given the rising costs of health care such systems turn out to be highly inefficient and an evidence of this is the greater lengths of stay of German patients in the hospital than US patients (12 days vs. 7.1 days). Given the free system in Canada, Canadians face deficits in treatments that are hi-tech and thus expensive, such as angioplasty, cardiac catheterization and intensive care. However, the Canadians have controlled costs by reducing the number of services that are termed ‘medically necessary’ and have learned to allocate resources less inefficiently by using waiting lists as a rationing mechanism. These steps have led the nation to provide medical care to all residents at a fraction of the per capita cost faced by the US system (Ridic, Gleason, & Ridic, 2012).
When compared with Germany’s system, health care providers often question whether the German or the US system is better. The citizens believe that Germany has a better system, but policy makers believe that the US system keeps a check on the efficient utilization of resources. The US systems recent move to managed care health insurance plans rather than a traditional insurance plan is an attractive move as it provides not just diagnostic and curative medical services to those covered but also preventive health care approach. Also, a pay-for-service-received system in the US has ensured that the quality of medical services is higher and waiting times are shorter than both, Germany and Canada (Ridic, Gleason, & Ridic, 2012).
However, the most pressing factor in the US health care system continues to be the persistent rise in medical care costs, while medical care may not be accessible to all. 40 million (16%) of the US population remains uninsured as their employers cannot afford medical insurance payments or have passed on premium payments to the employees who cannot afford it. Such a factor negatively affects the medical care received by these citizens and results in increasing insecurity for the families as a large portion of the income may at times be attributed to the medical bills. Such pressure may result in some citizens not getting the required level of medical care or some prescription medications remaining unfilled due to the high medical costs. Analysts have concluded that health care costs and infant mortality rates are lower in other countries compared to the US due to greater government control of the health care system in these countries. It might be time for the US health care system to finally become government managed completely to ensure affordable health care for all citizens, guaranteeing greater public satisfaction with the health care system (National Coalition on Health Care, 2007).
The National Coalition on Health Care (2007) realizes that Americans are now worried about their health care system and thus reforms are under way to make health care more affordable and of better quality. Dealing with the most pressing factor of the uninsured or underinsured citizens is at the top of the reforms list as even the US government aims to make health care universal.
Clonkin, T. (2002). Health Care in the United States: An Evolving System. Michigan Family Review, Volume 07, Issue 1, Fall 2002, pp. 5-17.
National Coalition on Health Care. (2007). The Impact of Rising Health Care Costs on the Economy: EFFECTS ON WORKERS AND FAMILIES. Available from http://alumniconnections.com/olc/filelib/EXR/cpages/9/Library/1958_Colloquia/1958_Impact_HealthcareCosts.pdf. Retrieved July 02, 2014.
Ridic, G., Gleason, S., & Ridic, O. (2012). Comparisons of Health Care Systems in the United States, Germany and Canada. Mater Sociomed. 2012; 24(2): 112–120.