Health is arguably one of the most fundamental concerns of every person. Without good health, our daily routines would greatly be inhibited not to mention the amount of discomfort this state would lead to. Because of this most governments have come up with health care systems to ensure that their citizens get the medical attention they require. An effective health care system is one that is efficient and acceptable and at the same time be equitable. Different countries boast of different healthcare systems and the American system is especially notorious for its costliness. The US system as it stands is a complex interconnection of providers, patients, and payers and is notorious for its inflated costs. Porter and Teisberg best capture the mood of the nation by their affirmation that the Americans traditionally assumed the high cost associated with healthcare was the price of excellence (1). Despite this, the country’s health system is seen by many as not delivering to the expected level given the high cost.
In the recent past, debates have raged all over the country as to the effectiveness and quality of various health care programs adopted by different countries, Whether or not the American system is fair and effective to the masses is also a contentious issue. It is with this in mind that this paper sets out to explore the program currently being used in the USA and in Switzerland so as to validate whether some features of the Swiss system should be implemented in the US or not.
Comparing Switzerland and American system
For a long time, the government has been a major stakeholder in the healthcare provision of its people. Kronenfelt observes that the idea that health was mostly a state concern in the US traces its inception in the late 17th century (27). The United States has been observed to experience a constantly rising healthcare cost leading to a state whereby a substantial proportion of the population cannot afford basic healthcare as they used to before. Statistics have it that 42.6 million citizens lack comprehensive health insurance cover. While it is generally acknowledged that there is a myriad of factors that have contributed to the current dysfunctional state that is the healthcare system, most of the blame appears to be leveled at intrinsic parts of the healthcare system itself. This crisis could be a result of an increase in costs and their inability to access proper health care.
Cost-wise, the U.S has the most expensive system in the world. Cutler states that the average American citizen spends an average of over $5635 per annum in the US for healthcare (7). This is almost double the $3781 spent by a Swiss citizen. This difference is due to increased prices for medical facilities, prescription medicines, administrative costs, and insurance premiums. As the cost of health care continues to escalate, more Americans are observed to lose access to health care, leading to greater anxiety and frustration for all members (Porter and Teisberg 71). This issue makes it difficult for the less fortunate to have proper medical thus making America’s system less effective than that of Switzerland. A shift to a Swiss-style would call lead to a decrease in these costs. This might not be a feasible solution since it fails to take into consideration the issues which have led to the high cost of health care in the first place.
Switzerland’s health care system is based on private insurance. This means that everyone is obliged to pay for their own insurance (Herzlinger 348). Medical insurance is mandatory and heavy penalties may be imposed due to negligence of the same. The government goes out of its way to ensures that everyone is insured by subsidizing the cost according to income per capita, age, and other factors. This in turn reduces the health care costs that could have been incurred by companies hence making them more competitive. On the other hand companies in the US are required to provide health care insurance to all their employees. This has led to segregation as the quality of health care received purely depends on the citizen’s professional status. Adoption of this Swiss policy can be done but only if the government comes up with plans on how to subsidize the cost of insurance. This could prove to be a costly venture considering the high population of the USA and relatively high unemployment rates (Knonenfeld 14).
In addition to this, insurance companies and medical providers in Switzerland are obliged to negotiate health care prices each year. This is a mandatory requirement proposed by the government and as such, the government must approve the figures the insurance companies propose so as to ensure they are fair. This promotes equality in the sector and as a result, citizens have the freedom to see any doctor in their country. Consequently, the medical providers have less paperwork than their U.S. counterparts hence reduces the long waits experienced by patients in the States. Due to this government-enforced price control, a Swiss citizen incurs about a third less in average medical costs than an American citizen, making the Swiss system more preferable (Watson and Ovseiko 367). The American system can no doubt borrow from this system. This would ensure that insurance firms do not exploit the citizens thus leading to the affordability of the services.
In the Swiss system, insurance companies have to provide basic health plans to all at a fixed price with no regard to risk. This means that a young healthy person pays the same premium as a terminally ill person in Switzerland. This is as opposed to the U.S. scenario where insurance providers consider risks while imposing their premiums. According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a family of four in Switzerland pays an average of $8,167 a year for a basic coverage plan while an American family with company insurance pays $2,713 a year. However, the employers contribute an average of $8,167 for the cumulative total of $10,880. This state of affairs greatly dissuades small employers in America from offering health insurance to their employees leading to a high number of uninsured American employees. Adoption of a similar measure in the USA could greatly increase the number of insured people. This would offset the high cost that the “high risk” group might cause insurance firms.
McManus states that despite the inflated costs that the US system charges, infant mortality and life expectancy rates are worsening. This may be an alarming fact but it does not come as a complete surprise considering the large number of people that do not have health coverage or access to medical facilities due to financial constraints. On the contrary, Herzlinger points out that Switzerland is world-widely recognized for its health care policies which have led to a state where no such calamities as those experienced in the USA are prevalent (348).
Public perception regarding the healthcare system is also at an all-time low in the USA. More than half the people in the US express levels of dissatisfaction with their health care system as it presently stands. This state is hugely ironic considering the level of technology and manpower that is channeled into the medical sector. In Switzerland, there is a record high of over 80% satisfaction for the services provided by their health system. With this in mind, it is clear that something ought to be done so as to improve the health care system and make it more consumers oriented thereby leading to a higher level of satisfaction by the patients.
Implications and discussions
The current US president, Obama has proposed an Independent Medicare Advisory Panel to act as an advisor and make recommendations as to the policies adopted by the organization as well as reimbursement policy. The underlying theme in this movie is the shift towards a healthcare system that places emphasis on quality as opposed to quantity. According to Whitehouse, the panel is a critical component in the achievement of an efficient delivery system and improving the value of the care provided. This move is welcomed owing to the many inadequacies of the current system.
Another feasible approach that is being looked into would be extending the highly successful system “Medicare” beyond its current target which is elderly to cover the whole population. The administrative costs for this program are very low (2%) and it has proven to be effective. This and other systems should be considered. It is therefore important that policymakers and citizens alike educate themselves on such issues and consequently help in re-inventing the system currently in use in the US and also suggest means applicable in combating these challenges.
This research paper set out to give a detailed description of the major highlights of Switzerland Switzerland’s National Healthcare Program to see if some of its features can be adopted in the US system. While the proposals to adopt the Swiss universal health care system seem to be attractive and feasible in nature, they carry with them their relative perceived risks and come at a cost both for the taxpayers and the government. It has been observed that there are various merits and demerits that result from the adoption or lack thereof of the proposed changes. However, the observable advantages to be reaped from the feasible benefits that can be drawn from the Swiss healthcare system far outweigh the perceived risks. It can therefore be convincingly declared that the Swiss program can be implemented in the USA albeit with some amendments to suit the US people and a lot of patience and support from the political body.
Cutler, David M. “Your money or your life: strong medicine for America’s health care system” USA:Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Herzlinger, Regina E. “Consumer-driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Payers, and Policymakers.” John Wiley and Sons, 2004. Print.
Kronenfeld, Michael R. “Healthcare Reform in America: A Reference Handbook.” USA: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.
McManus, Doyle. “Switzerland’s example of universal healthcare.” 2009. Web.
Porter, Michael E. and Teisberg, Elizabeth. “Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-based Competition on Results.” Harvard Business Press, 2006. Print.
Watson, Jonathan and Ovseiko, P. Health Care Systems: Reforming Health Care Systems. Routledge, 2005. Print.