U.S. must abandon current health care system to cut costs

By Beth Woodruff
Iowa State Daily (Ames, Iowa), Aug. 31, 2016

The major producer of the EpiPen, Mylan, has been under attack in recent days because of the extreme price hike of the life-saving medication. In the last few years, the EpiPen's price has increased by more than 400 percent, peaking at a price of $600 per unit in the last week, according to CNBC. While the CEO of Mylan has been more than apologetic, and borderline outraged, over the company's recent price hike, I can't help but notice a trend in American health care.

Comparing America's universal health care costs with those of other developed nations, the differences are astounding. The Commonwealth Fund is a private organization that specializes in research regarding the health care system and America's most vulnerable citizens such as children and those who are poverty-stricken. During its research, the Commonwealth Fund found that the average American spends $7,960 on health care each year, which is more than double the average in New Zealand, where the average citizen spends just below $3,000. It also discovered that for every dollar the United States spends on health care, the United Kingdom spends a meager 51 cents.

Not only are average yearly medical costs higher in the United States, but so are nearly all medical procedures. PBS found that a normal birth, not involving a caesarean section or complications, costs $1,521 in Finland, but $4,451 in the United States. Similarly, an appendectomy, a somewhat routine procedure in the United States, has a price tag nearly double most other developed nations.

So why is U.S. health care so astronomically priced compared to similar nations? Many people might believe the high price is because of high quality care, but unfortunately that is not the case. The United States ranked last among 11 other developed nations in the healthy lives category, according to a Commonwealth Fund finding. The New York Daily News said the "healthy lives" category took into account infant mortality, life expectancy and death rates from preventable diseases.

It's time for the United States to take a look at other developed nations' health care systems. A majority of the nations that ranked higher than the United States followed a single-payer system format. Harvard's medical school describes a single-payer system as a lone public entity in charge of financing health care for all citizens. In simpler terms, everyone in the nation would be provided with the exact same health insurance plan and company, but individual patients can still choose where to receive their medical services.

Harvard also explained how the single-payer system could help slim down America's bloated health care prices. General expenses and wasteful spending could be greatly reduced through cost-control methods and administrative costs by cutting out the many middle men the current U.S. system has. A single-payer system also could provide a greater sense of financial equality, as all citizens would have the same insurance plan despite any monetary struggles.

Not only is a federally funded single-payer system working in other countries, but after Bernie Sanders brought the idea to America's attention, a majority of citizens see hope in swapping health care systems. A Gallup poll in 2016 found that 58 percent of Americans were in favor of ditching the current ACA system with a single-payer medical system. 

With prices of America's health care treatments skyrocketing at unprecedented speeds, there needs to be a change. Whether that change is to a single-payer system or just finding ways to eliminate greed in America's health care system, it needs to happen soon. More and more Americans are in favor of abandoning the current system in hopes of finding financial refuge in a new one.

Beth Woodruff is on the staff of Iowa State Daily.