Health Care in the United States

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The United States in one of the richest, most populous and most powerful countries in the world and plays a central leadership role in the world. On the world stage, the U.S. often challenges other countries about their records regarding human rights. Yet the United States is failing its own citizens by not granting every citizen access to basic health care. Many citizens in the United States needlessly suffer and die each day due to the inequities of the health care system in the U.S. This is a horrible national catastrophe! The United States needs to provide universal health care to all of its citizens and legal residents. While the issue is very complex and touches many people and institutions, it is a problem that can and must be solved.

The United States has one of the worst health care systems in the world and is the only developed democracy without a universal health care system. France has a universal health care system that is funded by taxes from income, from pharmaceutical companies, and health harming products such as tobacco. There is a co-payment for certain services, but every citizen is entitled to health care. France spent 10% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care in 2000. Denmark, interestingly enough, has a universal health care system that is free to all citizens. It is government funded, 82.2% by taxes. Citizens are required to pay for procedures such as cosmetic surgery if it is not for a health purpose. Denmark spent 8.4% of GDP on health care in 2000. Australia also has a universal health care system that spent about 8.5% of GDP on health care in 2000 (Health care systems). The United States government spent 15.3% of their GDP on health care in 2003. In the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an organization of developed countries around the world, 15.3% is more than any other country spends. The average is 8.2%. The United States also spent $6,500 per capita on health care, which again is more then any other country in the OECD. In comparison, the average for spending per capita is about $4,940 in 2003. The shocking and poignant truth is that the U.S. spends more than any other country for health care and twice as much as the OCED average and yet many people are uninsured and do not have access to even basic health care services (Public Agenda).

This indicates staggering inefficiency. In countries in the OECD, government revenues cover 72% of health care spending. In the majority of the countries that were listed above, Australia, Denmark, and France, the main funding comes from taxes paid to the government. In comparison, the United States government only finances 44% of the health care program. The government and employers are the primary sources of health care funding in the United States. In Denmark the government pays for 100% of health insurance; it is considered free as long as you are a citizen even without being employed. Some countries have a Medicaid system that covers the poor; Australia, within the last five years, has developed a Medicare system that will cover all the uninsured and is government financed. In other countries, employers account for at most 30% of health care funding, if even any funding at all (Health care systems).

Because the United States spends the most on a health care system, one would think that most people in the U.S. would be healthy. This is not the case. Surprisingly, the United States does not have a particularly high life expectancy rate. Switzerland, Japan, Iceland, Spain and Australia are the OECD countries with the highest life expectancy rates. From the years 1960 to 2002, the U.S. life expectancy has increased about 7 to 8 years while Japan’s has increased about 14 years. The average life span for OECD countries is 77.8 years while for the U.S. it is 77.2 years. Another significant health factor in the United States is the obesity rate, which is the highest in OCED countries; about one-third of the...
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