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By | June 2013
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Lessons for Health Care Policy in the United States: Comparing Health Care Systems CHRISTIAN ASPALTER
Professor of Social Policy, Former Head Social Work and Social Administration Program Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, Zhuhai, China Note: A shorter version of this paper has been published in C. Aspalter, Y. Uchida and R. Gauld (eds.) (2011) “Health Care Systems in Europe and Asia” (Routledge Studies in Social Welfare in Asia), Routledge: London.

Health care systems are one of the most complex and comprehensive administrative and policy systems that there are. They are not to be comprehended by looking at any single data or perspective. They are constantly developing. They are elusive and often misunderstood, i.e. they may be mistaken for something they are not, or certain aspects may be overestimated or underestimated. Health care systems are needed, loved and detested. There are, as a matter of fact, a great deal of misperceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to health care. The recent debate in the United States, to name just one illustrative example, has clouded the issue of health care policy and health care reform in greater mystery than it helped to unravel and reveal new insights to the actual facts. In the comparative study below, we will see that for instance the United States would be among the top three world health care systems in terms of “socialism,” or, in other words, absolute public spending per capita for health care. Only in Luxembourg and Norway, does the government spend more on health care per person that in the United States (5,212, 4,006 and 3,315 PPP/US$ respectively). The often cited case of the United Kingdom, in the American debate, would not qualify to be only a moderate “socialist” health care system after all, as the UK government only spends 2,444 PPP/US$ per capita on health care, compared to 3,315 PPP/US$ spent by the American government. So, the health care system...