Why is the United States so afraid of learning good things from other countries?
Take health care, for example. Many Americans have been bamboozled into thinking the United States has the best health-care system in the world while the rest of the countries have horrible socialistic systems where people – if they’re not waiting in line – are dying in droves because of vicious death panels. Meantime, millions and millions are wishing to come to America for the finest treatments.
That characterization is not only nonsense; it’s completely untrue. It is, in fact, a lie.
Yes, of course, America has some superb health-care delivery and top medical-research institutions, including the wondrous Mayo Clinic. But our system is inefficient in many ways and the most expensive one in the world.
There was an eye-opening TV documentary the other night about world health-care systems hosted by the brilliant talk-show host Fareed Zakaria. It was enlightening, to say the least. If you missed it, check out Zakaria’s column on page 22 of the March 26 issue of TIME magazine. It’s a good summary of the documentary.
Zakaria emphasized two supreme success stories among many – Switzerland and Taiwan. Both are wealthy, thriving free-market nations. And yet, one of them – Switzerland – has had, for 20 years, a mandate that all citizens must buy private insurance, with some subsidies for those who cannot afford it, exactly as Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act calls for. Switzerland spends 11 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health care, compared to 17 percent in the United States. The Swiss have insurance not linked to their employers. They can pick and choose among many plans to suit their needs, and they can switch plans every year if they so choose. Surveys show very high satisfaction with that system.
Taiwan, in the mid-1990s, also found its health-care system in a shambles. It decided to study other systems in the world. Its goals were universal coverage and universal insurance, but it rejected multiple private insurers. Instead, it created a single-payer system similar to Medicare in our country. Its system, which is decidedly not socialistic, has been rated internationally as one of the very best. It is also one of the least costly – 7 percent of its GDP.
In my opinion, Obama’s plan does not go far enough; it’s a half measure. A one-payer system, similar to Taiwan’s, would be much better. But at the very least Obama took a giant step toward expanding coverage. The draw-back to his plan, I’ve always said, is there are no iron-clad ways to de-escalate costs, but that flaw could be remedied, hopefully.
It’s laughably ironic that ObamaCare is so reviled by conservatives. As Zakaria notes, it was a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, that first proposed, in the 1980s, the individual mandate. And, not to forget, RomneyCare is ObamaCare’s kissin’ cousin.
It’s possible ObamaCare may be repealed by its ferocious opponents, or it may be sabotaged soon by the Supreme Court. Once they have destroyed it, the big question – which will hang high in the air to haunt them – is what are they going to put in its place? The old expensive, inefficient status quo? Health experts have warned, time and again, that unrestrained market forces do not work when it comes to health-care systems.
I’m going to make a prediction: No matter which political party gains control, within 10 years (or less) they will be forced, by relentless public pressure, to initiate a health-care solution closely resembling either the Swiss model or the Taiwan model. That is my prediction; that is my hope.