Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 6, 2009


Jonathan Cohn, Boston Globe - No serious politician is talking about recreating either the British or the Canadian system here. The British have truly "socialized medicine," � in which the government directly employs most doctors. The Canadians have one of the world's most centralized "single-payer" systems, in which the government insures everybody directly and private insurance has virtually no role. A better understanding for how universal healthcare might work in America would come from other countries - countries whose insurance architecture and medical cultures more closely resemble the framework we'd likely create here. . .

The Dutch and the French organize their healthcare differently. In the Netherlands, people buy health insurance from competing private carriers; in France, people get basic insurance from nonprofit sickness funds that effectively operate as extensions of the state, then have the option to purchase supplemental insurance on their own. (It's as if everybody is enrolled in Medicare.) But in both countries virtually all people have insurance that covers virtually all legitimate medical services. In both countries, the government is heavily involved in regulating prices and setting national budgets. And, in both countries, people pay for health insurance through a combination of private payments and what are, by American standards, substantial taxes. . .

In both the Netherlands and France, most people have long-standing relationships with their primary care doctors. And when they need to see these doctors, they do so without delay or hassle. In a 2008 survey of adults with chronic disease conducted by the Commonwealth Fund - a foundation which financed my own research abroad - 60 percent of Dutch patients and 42 percent of French patients could get same-day appointments. The figure in the US was just 26 percent.

The contrast with after-hours care is even more striking. If you live in either Amsterdam or Paris, and get sick after your family physician has gone home, a phone call will typically get you an immediate medical consultation - or even, if necessary, a house call. And if you need the sort of attention available only at a formal medical facility, you can get that, too - without the long waits typical in US emergency rooms.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is totally unamerican. Where is the greed.

July 7, 2009 4:30 PM  

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