Countries with worse health care systems than the United States

The United States is often compared, unfavorably, to health care systems of other countries.

But it’s refreshing to read that, yes, there are indeed countries that are worse off than we are. (via Ezra Klein)

Like Russia, which allocates significantly less than the World Health Orgnaization’s recommendation of 5 percent of government spending to health care. It’s a hybrid public-private system gone wrong:

Ninety percent of Russians are technically covered. But, doctors and hospitals extract “donations” for free care. Anyone who can afford it pays out-of-pocket for private hospitals and doctors. In theory, consumers can pick their own insurance plan. In reality, their employers generally do it for them, bought-off by the insurers.

And if you think the fee for service system is bad here, consider China, where health spending is actually growing faster than its booming economy:

Most hospitals are government-owned, and the doctors who work there are on salary—and paid very poorly. Today, a junior doctor can make less than $120 a month. A doctor’s biggest payday comes with his yearly bonus, which is tied to the revenue he brings in for his hospital or facility. Thus not only do hospitals have an incentive to have a lot of beds, but doctors also have an incentive to fill them—all to turn a profit.

And, of course, you can’t forget Turkmenistan. Their idea for reform was to close all rural hospitals, forcing people to travel to the capitol city, banning the reporting of certain diseases, along with replacing doctors with military conscripts. As a result, an epidemic of bubonic plague reportedly broke out.

So, when you read in the media about how bad the United States health care system is, don’t panic. It could be worse.


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