Medicine and Health Care

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The US is the only country in the developed world, except for South Africa, that does not provide healthcare for all of its citizens. Every other developed country in the world as well as some developing nations offer universal healthcare for their residents. In the US, nearly 50 million Americans have no health insurance, more than 10 million of which are children. Those Americans that do not have access to healthcare are often either unable to afford health insurance, or have been denied coverage by insurance companies. Individuals often have coverage denied due to pre-existing conditions or diseases. The list of diseases used by insurance companies to deny coverage number in the thousands. Insurance companies are not willing to take the risk of insuring unhealthy people, which means that people that need insurance the most do not have access to it. The US spends more money on healthcare than any other country in the world. In fact, the US spent $2 trillion on healthcare in 2005 and this number is growing. It is expected to rise to $2.9 trillion by 2009. Comparing US healthcare spending to other nations with universal healthcare such as Norway, France and Canada, we can see that US is spending drastically more. From Exhibit 1, US healthcare spending per capita annually is $5,771, while healthcare spending in Canada is $2,998 – nearly half that of the US. Another way to look at healthcare spending is to see what portion of national's GDP is spent on healthcare. From Exhibit 2, we can see that US healthcare spending as a share of GDP is the highest in the world at 15.2%, while that of Canada is only 9.9%. (

Exhibit 1
Total Health Expenditures Per Capita, U.S. and Selected Countries, 2003
Exhibit 2
Total Health Expenditures as a Share of GDP, U.S. and Selected Countries
The United States' health financing system is the least fair of all the developed nations, according to World Health Organization (WHO). Each individual is responsible for financing his or her own healthcare in the United States. In most cases, Americans have to purchase health insurance in order to cover unexpected healthcare related costs. However, even Americans with health insurance are not always covered to the extent that they think they are, because insurance companies do not guarantee the payment for certain procedures. For example, over 50% of family bankruptcies filed in the USA involve medical expenses and over 75% of those bankruptcies are filed by people with health insurance. ( It is clear that all members of the population, from the rich to the poor are affected by the "least fair system", but the poor are affected the most.

The healthcare system in the US seems to be a vicious cycle, especially for the poor. The poorest section of society and those with chronic illnesses cannot obtain health insurance. Half of all American households earn less than $48,000 per year, which is not enough to cover serious illness treatments. ( When health problems are not properly treated, as they are not without insurance, the symptoms persist and may become long term disabilities. Health problems and disabilities make it increasingly difficult to find employment. Without employment, there is not enough money available to afford health insurance for the children of those afflicted. In turn this causes children's health problems to not be properly treated. In 2006 the poverty rate for minors in the USA was 21.9%, the highest rate in the developed world. Those people get stuck in this vicious circle and find it very hard to get out of it. Therefore, without access to healthcare, members of society suffer severe hardship. In comparison to America's healthcare system, the Canadian healthcare system used to have a similar health system to the one practiced in the...
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