Which Country Has the Best Health Care System? Readers Respond

TRANQUILLITY OF SPIRIT

I have both French and American passports. Americans should understand the tranquillity of spirit that truly universal health care brings to a population. People have worries … but not about losing everything because of an illness. — Bob Nelson, Calais, France

I’m British. For me the idea that “Can I afford to accept treatment?” is bizarre. And harsh. If you’ll forgive me for saying so, the U.S. system has a sense of selfishness to it. Your country seems to have lost your sense of “together.” Rather, it looks like “everyone for themselves.” — Arthur, Glasgow

Austin and Aaron respond: You are certainly not the only people to feel that way, but it seems many Americans value choice over security. This includes plentiful options for health insurance, including the “choice” to be uninsured. This freedom comes with at least three kinds of costs. First, it’s more than just a headache to choose a health plan. Studies show people — even experts — are terrible at doing so, routinely picking plans that aren’t the best for them. Second, the vast array of health plans with varying requirements and protocols impose administrative costs on physicians and hospitals. By one estimate, the administrative complexity of the U.S. health care system adds nearly $300 billion per year in avoidable costs. Third, strong results from the Oregon Medicaid study (a randomized trial of access to Medicaid coverage) include that the program significantly reduced the financial risk of poor health and improved mental health. It’s safe to say that the U.S. health care system may be many things, but tranquil isn’t one of them.

 – New York Times

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