Chris Van Es

Don’t Follow America on Health Care

With the US Supreme Court set to begin considering the Affordable Care Act (the massive health-care reform derided by opponents as “Obamacare”), it is worth noting that the number of Americans without health insurance reached an all-time high in 2010, the year the law was enacted. Whatever the Court decides, the US system is no model for emerging countries.

TORONTO – With the United States Supreme Court set to begin considering the Affordable Care Act (the historic health-care reform derided by opponents as “Obamacare”), it is worth noting that the number of Americans without health insurance reached an all-time high in 2010, the year the law was enacted. Roughly 50 million US residents (one in six) pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses.

The 2008 recession is not the only reason for this staggering figure; long-term political and policy choices are also to blame. Globally, but especially for rapidly growing economies, the lesson is simple: avoid America’s private health-care model.

The US is one of the few high-income countries that does not finance health care through a publicly funded prepaid system. On average, wealthier countries spend roughly 11% of their GDP on health, with more than 80% publicly financed and only 14% of spending taking place on a fee-for-service basis. Public finance (or, in some cases, government-regulated cooperative insurance funds that amount to public financing) pays for most discretionary medical services, with private insurance supplementing only minimal extra services.

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