The Health Care Debate

Part one of a six part series analyzing international health care systems

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a six part series analyzing the health care systems of other nations around the world.

In the coming weeks, I have taken on a monumental task for myself. The current state of affairs in the political arena has almost all eyes on one thing: healthcare. I plan on studying the systems of various other developed countries in hopes of gaining a clearer image of what we, as a country, should do.

Admittedly, I came into this issue not knowing nearly as much as I should. I have heard the talking points from both sides, but have not been persuaded to any great extent by either, so I decided to dig in deeper.

I recently picked up a copy of T.R. Reid’s new book The Healing of America. I was sick of hearing the same arguments over and over again from both sides, and I wanted to cut through the junk and get a rational look at the issue, and I seem to have found just that in Reid’s book.

Reid is a journalist who has traveled the world to analyze the health care systems of some of the largest nations. He was in each country for various reasons and periods of time, but made sure to take away an in-depth look and the pros and cons of the way each handled this issue.

One of the largest misconceptions going around is that there is the option of either our current system or Canada’s public system that includes long waits and no option of private doctors, but nothing in between. As Reid points out, there are actually four major systems that countries use, and we can learn something from each of them.

The four types include the Bismarck model, the Beveridge model, the National Health Insurance (NHI) model, and the Out-of-Pocket model. The Bismarck is that of countries such as Germany, Japan and France. The Beveridge is that of Great Britain, Italy and Spain. Canada uses the NHI model. And the Out-of-Pocket model, which essentially means there is no established health care payment system, exists in many of the poorest nations of the world that are too disorganized to provide any kind of care for their citizens.

After outlining these, Reid goes on to say that America has elements of all of them. We cover some citizens through government programs, others through programs provided by their employers and others with nothing who are then left to pay as they go or get no treatment at all.

All of these possibilities have their pros and cons, and this debate is far more complicated than the pundits and politicians make it sound. The point of Reid’s book and the point of this series of articles are to look at foreign countries and see what we can learn from them. As President Eisenhower took the German model of the highway system and implanted it in America, we can learn something from other developed countries in hopes of improving our system.

Regardless of affiliation, I hope we can agree on that; that the goal of this debate is to improve the lives of the most citizens possible. Whether it be public or private, efficiency and quality of health care is a necessity in any country if it is to sustain itself and its citizens.

Check back in the coming weeks to learn along with me as I analyze the systems of five major countries. I am admittedly under informed as of yet, but I hope to come out of this with an informed and original opinion on the matter and I hope you will join me on my journey.