Healthcare, the American Way

Graphic by Aarathi K G

It is common knowledge that the United States of America cannot compete with its neighbors in the field of healthcare. In fact, privatization of the sector, high prices of medication and lack of awareness pose a myriad of obstacles to its development. In the US, a simple knee fracture can cost up to $30,000. So, now we ask this question: when it comes to healthcare, how far are they from achieving the American Dream?

Since the advent of World War One and the groundbreaking discovery of penicillin, a brand new pace appeared in the healthcare sector of almost every industrial giant in the west. Surgery, medicine, orthopedics, and many other fields gained traction in the years following the Great War. Now healthcare in the US has also developed to a great extent, but there’s definitely still room for improvement.

According to the OECD Health Statistics of 2019, 15 percent of the GDP of the United States is used to fund healthcare. This number is far greater than that of its neighbors: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, etc. Despite the amount of resources spent behind the healthcare sector, 7 out of 10 people in the US are unsatisfied with this field. What is the reason behind this contradiction?

In fact, where most of these countries’ healthcare is public i.e. government owned, more than half of the American Healthcare sector is privately owned. The US does indeed have public insurance namely Medicare and Medicaid. Unfortunately these companies cover only 18 percent of the country’s population. The rest of its citizens rely on private insurance or aren’t covered at all. As of 2020, 30 million US citizens remain uninsured.

This privatized health insurance plays a huge role in the people’s dissatisfaction. When public insurance companies negotiate with hospitals, the hospitals are bound to listen, as the largest number of their customers are insured through those companies. However, the case is quite different with private insurance companies. Their clients are much smaller in number, so when individual insurance companies negotiate prices, the hospital is not liable to reduce the costs as they do for public insurance companies. As a result, those who are privately insured have minimal reduction on their medical bill, whereas those who aren’t insured at all are forced to pay a magnanimous amount for the same service.

Although government expenditures behind healthcare are similar for all European nations, the best services are found in Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, and other northern European countries. Their governments issue public healthcare, where the cost of medication comes from regular taxes paid by citizens.

Countries such as Canada, Britain, France, etc. also have public healthcare and the likes, where all insurance companies lie under the control of their government or its healthcare system. Insurance is provided under government-run systems such as NHS for Great Britain and Canadian Medicare for Canada. The public insurance companies also centrally negotiate prices of medication and all public hospitals must adhere to their distributed price list, lest they should lose a majority of their customers. As a result, expenses remain the same for all citizens exercising their right to healthcare.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in America. Their healthcare is treated as any other commodity and as a result there have been many cases of medical bills leading to bankruptcy and homelessness in the United States.

Not only insurance, American drugs such as Tadalafil, Zolpidem, etc. can cost up to hundreds of dollars per month. The price of insulin, a drug commonly used to combat type-1 diabetes, has a net worth of $332 per vial as of 2019. However, countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, etc. distribute insulin at a cost of $10 on average. Since drugs such as these are a necessity for survival, American patients are forced to pay the obscenely high prices set by manufacturers.

Another example of the shortcomings in the US Healthcare System can be found in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the USA spent about $350 billion as funding for COVID relief, their situation during the pandemic rapidly deteriorated. This mainly occurred due to the lack of awareness among the general public, and emergence of politics in the situation. Wearing masks became an ideological statement, crowds came to the streets convinced that vaccines were taking away their freedom as citizens. And as the Americans argued, new strains of the virus emerged, wiping lives away like dust.

It is clear that healthcare must be more publicized if the US wants to create a sector their citizens can be proud of. As a basic human right, prices of medication, hospitalization, and drugs must be reduced to a tolerable amount. Furthermore, raising awareness is integral for the development of healthcare in the USA, so they can combat the COVID-19 pandemic and all other battles they come across in the future. In conclusion, when it comes to the healthcare sector, the US has indeed come a long way, but there is still a much longer way to go.

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3 thoughts on “Healthcare, the American Way

  1. anonymous

    “How far are they from achieving the American Dream” – I’d say, very, considering all the information from this article.
    Amazing prose, I have to hand it to you 👏👏


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