When I first started studying health care inequality as an undergraduate, one of the first facts I learned was that, "the U.S. is the ONLY major industrialized nation in the world without a universal health care system." I was shocked! How was it possible that in my twenty-three years of life I had never learned this fact? The more I studied the more I realized that the reason I never heard this … and worse yet, the reason that I took for granted that getting health care is difficult for everyone, is due to the same, out dated archetype that has been afflicting many other disparities upon this country; our overbearing culture of individualism, and the belief that the United States is too "unique" to model ourselves after other countries.
With all of these thoughts in mind, I was overjoyed when the PBS series Sick Around the World came out. Reporter T.R. Reid travels to five countries (the U.K., Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland) each democratic, each capitalistic, and each with very different health care systems. He specifically notes three major things: the positive aspects of the system, the negative aspects of the system, and what aspects could possibly apply to the United States.
The United States spend 17% of its GDP on health care (making it the most expensive system in the world, and yet everyone is not covered. This statement on it's own just seems like another statistic floating around about how much we consume. However, when you look at the fact that France (the country that is ranked the best health care system in the world by the World Health Organization, the United States is ranked 37th) only spends 9.6% of its GDP, that statistic seems a lot more drastic doesn't it? WHO's country rankings are decided by three main factors: attainment and performance, goodness and fairness, and goals and functions. Clearly if we are spending so much money more money on health care than nations that are providing access to everyone, we are doing something wrong.