Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Among the Top 10 Nations—We're Number 13!?

In the United Nations Development Programme's newly released Human Development Report assessing quality-of-life around the world, the United States placed 13th. The rankings are based on 2007 data (that's before the global economic meltdown) for criteria such as literacy, gross domestic product and "a long and healthy life" as measured by life expectancy.

The three very worst places in the world to live
(from worse to slightly less horrible) among the 182 nations studied: Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

Although being 13 out of 182 is in the top 10 percent, it doesn't put the U.S. in the esteemed Top 10. What's interesting about the Top 10 is that those nations have the types of health care systems a vocal segment of our society is screaming against.

Here's the list of the Top 10 nations. Each one features universal health insurance coverage for its citizens (i.e. every person has health insurance and access to medical care).
(1) Norway (2) Australia (3) Iceland (4) Canada (5) Ireland
(6) The Netherlands (7) Sweden (8) France (9) Switzerland
(10) Japan
For instance, Norway treats health care as a government responsibility, like national security.

In nations including Japan, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands, the government provides funding for coverage by private insurers with care from private practitioners.

Canada and Australia combine the two systems by having the government pay for services performed by private practitioners. (The last option is used by Medicare, the widely appreciated U.S. health care plan for senior citizens.)

None among the Top 10 has our employer-based, for-profit health care insurance and delivery system.
"All other industrialized democracies guarantee health care for everybody—young or old, rich or poor, native or immigrants," reports health writer T.R. Reid in a September 21 Newsweek article titled No Country for Sick Men. Another fact from that piece: "22,000 Americans die each year because they lack insurance; likewise, the U.S. is the only developed nation where medical bankruptcies occur."

Although I lived in Japan for a while, and received very good, low-cost health care, and I love Paris, I feel very lucky to live in this country. But having spent time abroad, I can both appreciate what's great about America and recognize what's not. We can learn a lot about fixing our broken health care system by looking abroad. People I know from other countries are surprised that Americans accept the scattered, bankruptcy-inducing system we have, and they're stunned that we're actually fighting with one another about providing a health care safety net for all.

Here's a link to an AFP news story about the UNDP report.


Lilly said...

I'm from this country and think it's crazy that people here are fighting about providing health care to all Americans. Those top 10 countries do pay higher taxes, but they get something tangible for their money. I'd rather pay for insurance I'll always know I have then pay for the insurance I have now, and am often afraid to use because if you use it too much you lose it.

Olivia said...

I can't believe we are number 13 and what made it worst is that people are fighting about health insurance.

major medical insurance plans


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