"Sick Around the World"

Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a health care system?

Reported by T. R. Reid
April 15, 2008

These foreign health care ideas aren't really so foreign to us. For American veterans, health care is just like Britain's NHS; for seniors on Medicare, like Taiwan; for working Americans with insurance, we're Germany; and for the tens of millions without health insurance, we're just another poor country. But almost all of us can agree that this fragmented health care mess cannot be ignored. The longer we leave it, the sicker it becomes, and the more expensive the cure.

To view "Sick Around the World" and for other resources:

To view a KFF forum on "Sick Around the World" featuring Jackie Judd, T. R. Reid, Tsung-Mei Cheng and Uwe Reinhardt:


By Don McCanne, MD

Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid takes a look at the health care systems of the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland, and shows how each has settled on different models that are simpler, fairer, cheaper, and include everyone. He contrasts these nations with the United States which is "unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people."

Passionate single payer supporters (like me) might be disappointed (I'm not) to see that each of the other systems was touted as a definite improvement over ours, while single payer was not selected out as being superior to the rest. However, we are entitled to a certain level of smugness on observing the discussion, during both the program and the KFF forum, of Taiwan's single payer system. From a pure policy perspective, it seems clear to me that single payer beats out the rest, even though all of the others are far better than what we now have.

The United States really can learn much by observing the application of health policies in other nations with less expensive, higher-performance systems. The first step is to better understand social solidarity.