Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Frontline: "Sick Around the World"
My partner and I recently watched a brief but reasonably informative documentary on PBS' Frontline program entitled "Sick Around the World" and providing an overview of systems for providing and insuring health care in very different settings: the UK, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan. While there may be many people in the United States who believe, for whatever reason, that we have nothing to learn from the experiences other countries have had, I very much disagree. Each of these countries offers a lesson in how their societies made choices, often very difficult ones, to balance competing objectives with respect to health care: universality, flexibility, efficiency, low cost, good public health outcomes, and patient satisfaction. The results vary a good deal from country to country but one thing keeps emerging, at least to judge from the public health statistics: all these countries achieve better population outcomes (neo-natal mortality, life expectancy, popular satisfaction) at lower costs as a proportion of GDP than is the case in the United States. We obviously have much to learn from these countries and ignore their experience at our peril.