19 countries have better health care than America

By J. Mark Ryan, M.D.
Providence (R.I.) Journal, Letters, Dec. 3, 2013

I was amazed to read Jay Ambrose's Nov. 26 Commentary piece ("Single-payer health insurance a singularly bad idea") attacking single-payer health insurance, especially given that virtually every argument he makes is not based on fact.

He states unnamed "experts" have shown that single-payer insurance systems reduce quality of care. In fact, quality of care in the United States ranks behind 19 other countries, all of which have some version of single-payer health care.

He claims that "many countries" are allowing more private insurance and care as a result. In fact only one is, England, which has seen massive protests of government efforts to weaken the National Health System. Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have some degree of home rule, have opted out of these "reforms" completely.

If we need to compare the merits of American-style commercial insurance and a single-payer system, probably the best comparison is with Canada. In the United States, the most common cause of personal bankruptcy is health care costs.

In the United States, there are 48 million people uninsured. The death rate that can be directly attributed to the lack on insurance in this country is 1 per 1000 people per year. This means that over the past decade, we have been losing 48,000 Americans annually from a lack of insurance, almost the same number each year as Americans killed during the entire Vietnam War. In Canada no one goes bankrupt because of health-care costs and no one dies because of a lack of insurance.

So who has the better system?

Dr. J. Mark Ryan resides in Providence. He is president of the Rhode Island chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.