Made in America: Health Care Woes

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump urged senators to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) after news broke that Republicans’ plan to replace it did not have enough votes. Where does the United States’ current system compare to the rest of the world?

The United States spends $9,403 per person on health care, the most per capita in the world, according to the WHO Global Health expenditure database. The average life expectancy of a US citizen is 79 years old. On the flip side,Somalia spends the least at $33 per person and has a life expectancy of 52 years old.

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Generally, it’s safe to say that a country that spends more on health services for each of its citizens will have a higher life expectancy. But there are other variables at play. For example, the US and UK are both considered wealthy, industrialized countries. But our friends across the pond pay $3,935 per person on health care, less than half of what the US pays, and have a longer life expectancy (80.9 years old). Japan pays around $3,000 per person and has the longest life expectancy in the world at 83.7 years old. 

What’s the real difference between a country like US and others? The US is the only country in the OECD that doesn’t offer universal health care. Japan, for example, was the first country in Asia to establish universal public health insurance system that requires all citizens to have access to health care. All medical, dental and prescription drugs are covered by either the national or an employer-based program, which are all non-competing non-profit organizations. Citizens in employer-based programs have monthly insurance premiums of $300 per family and the government covers families who can’t afford the fee.

The ACA mandates health care for everyone and expands coverage for the poor, but its fate hangs in the balance. Though it does not emulate the same government-subsidized programs like Japan and other industrialized countries, it was a step in that direction. Does the GOP proposition to repeal Obamacare, limit Medicaid expansion, give higher deductibles and potentially loosen protections for those with pre-existing conditions resemble the health care plan in any other country in the world? In my research this has not yet been seen.

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is Chief Resident of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.