Sick Around the World by Frontline

The documentary film Sick Around The World deals with the topic of healthcare systems across the world. In the film, five capitalist democratic countries are chosen for analysis. The rest of this essay will briefly describe these, scrutinize their pros and cons and identify the best among the lot. The essay finally attempts to find ‘the best’ system’s suitability to the United States economy and the possible consequences in the event of being applied.

In terms of ‘cost to patient’, the United Kingdom’s healthcare system is the undisputed leader in the world. The government acts in twin roles of 1.healthcare provider and 2.patient insurer. The government gathers funds for healthcare costs beforehand through an ingenuous method of taxation. Of course, as could be expected with a “socialized medicine” model, there are the usual bureaucratic hassles. But apart from that, the UK healthcare system boasts an enviable record of health management and impressive patient outcomes. The National Health Service (NHS) is the central government agency that takes care of all aspects of catering to citizens’ health. The film then goes on to show the workings of the healthcare system of Japan. Here, the system is slightly different, in that, it is a “social insurance” system, wherein the costs are distributed between the employers, non-profit community organizations and citizens. While insurance companies and hospitals in Japan are predominantly in the private sector, they are very well regulated. In this system, monthly premiums cost only $280 for an entire family.

The German model is quite similar to the Japanese one, the only difference being that citizens are free to choose from an array of private non-profit “sickness funds”. Those who cannot afford to pay their premiums get covered by taxpayer money. It is a sound system, where premiums are pegged to family incomes and the co-pay is often marginal. The only drawback of this single-payer-system is that it provides fewer choices for medical practitioners, whose monthly income is below par when compared to most European nations. The Swiss system comes closest to the American system in that the premiums are highly priced (about $750 per month per family). The system has generated better patient outcomes than in the United States. The other nation discussed in the film is Taiwan, which spends only 6.3 percent of its total GDP on public health.

If one system among the five discussed above were to be picked, it would have to be the UK’s system. Firstly, a sizeable share (8.3%) of GDP is spent on the healthcare system without directly exposing the citizen to any of the costs. By a sophisticated taxation policy, the government bears the costs of running healthcare facilities, paying doctors and support staff and also procedural, medicinal expenses. The most impressive aspect of this model is its focus on preventative care, which would prove to be the perfect antidote for the ailing American healthcare system which holds the worst record for patient outcomes in the industrial world. Excepting for such features as Medicare and Mediclaim, the healthcare industry in the United States is privately run. Hence, a sudden transfer to the “socialized medicine” model is not only practically not feasible but also not prudent. An ideal solution would be the expansion of provisions within Social Security to cover basic healthcare needs. Such a move would also reduce administrative costs. While the American healthcare industry, including the hospitals, practitioners and insurers would take home paycheques for lesser amounts, the nation’s citizens belonging to all strata of society will be much healthier.