How does one judge the health of a healthcare system?
We can only do so by making comparisons. And as such, we must make the fairest possible comparisons–those being to other modern, industrialized countries with similar enough cultures and healthy enough economies. The best way to do this is to look at mostly Western countries of European descent–the nations of Western Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the one Asian country in the mix, Japan. These countries are often referred to as the OECD countries, which stands for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Now, most of these countries have socialized healthcare to varying degrees. And the data we’ll be looking at shortly often leads people to conclude that the problem is that America’s healthcare system is NOT socialized–at least not enough. That’s an interesting and reasonable conclusion, and there very well may be some truth to it, but it’s not necessarily the conclusion we will ultimately come to.
Firstly, how much does America spend on healthcare compared to these countries?
According to 2013 data, America spends $9,086 per capita annually. Every American spends $9,086 per year on healthcare. This comes from direct payments for treatment, health insurance payments, taxes dedicated to medicare, etc. It is the most expensive healthcare system in the world. The amount we spend is roughly one-third more than the next highest country, Norway ($6,170) and two-thirds higher than the OECD median ($3,661).
With such a high price tag, one would assume America has the healthiest people in the world, correct? You do, after all, get what you pay for if the old maxim is accurate.
If taking prescription drugs were an indicator of health, we would certainly be the most healthy (tied with New Zealand that is) with every American adult taking an average of 2.2 medications on a regular basis. Just for fun, the lowest among OECD countries is the Netherlands at 1.1 medications taken regularly on average per capita.
But taking medications must not be a great indicator of health because out of OECD countries, Americans have the lowest life expectancy at 78.8 years overall. The highest is Japan, with an average life expectancy of 83.4 years, and the OECD median is 81.2 years. The U.S. also has an obscenely high infant mortality rate of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 new babies born. This shatters other OECD rates, with the next highest being New Zealand with 5.2 infant deaths per 1,000 new babies born. The OECD median is 3.5, nearly half of U.S. rates.
In heart disease deaths, the U.S. is fourth in OECD countries (out of 14) in heart disease deaths, eighth in cancer deaths (not TOO bad) and third in diabetes-related amputations.
The point is, we are not a healthy nation. But it is certainly not for a lack of spending!
The cost to consumer of American healthcare
In 2016, the average cost per person for health insurance finally passed the 5-digit mark at $10,345. That’s what you pay regardless of whether or not you get sick or injured, just for the privilege.
What if you do get sick or injured?
- Average cost of cancer treatment: This is incredibly hard to calculate, but depending on sex, age and type of cancer, it can cost between $5,000 and $140,000 per year to treat cancer.
- Average lifetime cost of diabetes treatment: $82,500
- Average cost of a tonsillectomy: $5,442
- Average cost of a C-section: $13,000
- Average cost of a broken bone: $8,000
You get the idea.
In taxes, the average American pays $9,990 per year to fund Medicare and Medicaid, the two major federal health programs.
With median income among Americans being just under $52,000/year before taxes, all other things being average, Americans pay roughly 40% of their income (in taxes and health insurance) toward healthcare before they even set foot in a doctor’s office.
Of course that’s a statistical simplification, but I think the point is made: American healthcare will, and must, collapse. It is incredibly expensive and produces poor outcomes, particularly for as much as it costs. It is a very low-value product.
Furthermore, the financial and health burdens it places on the American citizenry is unsustainable. Real income has not increased by any significant percentage for nearly 30 years and, in fact, real income per capita is falling in America. This doesn’t change the fact that healthcare prices (as well as education costs, food prices, gas prices, rents, etc.) generally follow an upward trend.
We have reached a point in American healthcare where people choose to die rather than burden future generations with the cost of their treatment.
It is a sick, twisted system based on profit and with almost nothing to do with actual health.
Politicians in America have suggested, campaigned on and attempted to implement various solutions. The most recent and famous example being the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially referred to as Obamacare. It’s two major successes were enrolling about 18 million people in health insurance and abolishing the pre-existing conditions convention previously oft-used by insurance companies to deny coverage to consumers.
However, it has revealed itself to have been basically a transfer of wealth to health insurance companies because it mandated that every American buy their products. It also reduced competition in the health insurance marketplace, and caused health insurance premiums to rise at an alarming rate.
For these reasons (and other, more divisively political reasons), the Trump administration has announced a replacement program called the AHCA, or American HealthCare Act. So far, it doesn’t seem to improve much, and even removes one of Obamacare’s positive aspects–protection from pre-existing condition discrimination.
None of this is really even relevant at all, however, as these political “solutions” do not revolve around public good, rather they, like so much else in politics, revolve around further enriching the financial and political elite, while clinging to power, at the expense of the population at large.
Around the merry-go-round
As costs rise, public health continues to decline and politicians argue, the people get hosed. And nothing so utterly broken can continue to sustain itself.
The moment of American healthcare collapse cannot be predicted. It might be tomorrow, it might be in another generation. It might be a grand display and go down in a blaze of glory, or it might slowly just drag this country into the third-world. In any case, it is stage 4, metastatic, chronic and inoperable. We are just “making healthcare comfortable” and “aiding in its transition” now. It’s in hospice.
There are times when I lament our society’s choice to give deference to medicine, and I look forward to the collapse of this absurd “healthcare” system they’ve built for us. But in the face of a public health crisis, where we are all Americans and all humans, it is sad to think that what so many have come to rely for their health has, and will, let them down. Many will suffer.
Perhaps, though, from the ashes, there would emerge a new opportunity for MDs, DCs and all manner of health practitioners–as well as the patients themselves–to take an entirely new perspective on health. A new, healthier, health perspective where prevention, clean living, detox, harmony with our surroundings, healthy diet and conscientiousness are key. And the value is MUCH greater than about anything the medical profession can throw at you. An entire wellness program–addressing root causes, symptoms and getting you healthy rather than managing your symptoms–at my clinic will cost you less than a broken wrist.
The good news is, you don’t have to wait for the collapse to take on that perspective. Join me on the vanguard.