It’s very difficult for us non-Americans to fully comprehend the American health debate. How is it possible that the richest country in the world is caught up in this ridiculous state of affairs? It seems clear that many Americans have long been in favor of healthcare reform, at least in theory. Previous polls show the majority have supported extending insurance cover – until they are presented with a bill for doing so. The idea of increasing taxes and curbing benefits ensures that attitudes harden rapidly.
Americans want to do the right thing by their neighbors but with the proviso being that it cannot require any sense of personal sacrifice. The lucky Americans who have access to health care have become extremely used to this service and do not appear to be prepared to compromise when it comes to ease of access or indeed quality. They do not want to pay more and settle for less.
But it seems impossible to avoid this. Around the world, medical costs are rapidly rising but in the US alone, they are reaching near-unassailable proportions. US health spending grew at its fastest rate for 50 years in 2009, to a whopping $2.5 trillion and this figure is projected to double within ten years. Perhaps it is the entrepreunarial nature of the system is what it makes it so appealing to America – they want care when only necessary but also want autonomy. They are blind to the inefficiencies of the system.
Britain’s much-maligned NHS system and its socialist style derivatives are routinely dismissed, especially by Republicans. But even look at crocked footballer David Beckham – he went to a private clinic in Finland to have his ruptured Achilles tendon fixed, instead of the NHS in the UK.
The biggest problem seems to be curbing the extortionate prices charged by hospitals and doctors – America has the most active health market in the world but what it sorely lacks is a bona fide health system.