Comparing Public Healthcare in the US and Europe

Source: OECD

Since the United States is a very rich nation, many would like to believe Americans are healthier and better off with their public healthcare system compared to their European counterparts. On the contrary, when it comes to public or universal healthcare access, the US lags behind even medium-developed European countries; what more the truly advanced like the UK, France, Belgium, and Germany?

European countries have national healthcare insurance systems that cover for fundamental health conditions and basic services. While some countries provide some of these services absolutely free of charge, there are certain instances when such services will be charged with a small fee for the patient’s participation.

In France, for example, French nationals and legal residents are able to obtain public health care services at only 25 percent of the total cost. For instance, a healthcare service costs 100 Euros, French nationals will only be paying 25 Euros and the remaining 75 Euros is already shouldered by the French national health insurance system. The 25 Euros the French will pay for can also be covered by their private health insurance policy which is, surprisingly, a lot less expensive than the health insurance policies Americans have to pay for.

Is there any other benefit to living in Europe and enjoying its public health care system rather than in the US? Yes, excellent healthcare is also related to life expectancy. The better the health care received by the nationals and residents of a particular country, the longer is the life expectancy of the people of that nation. The United States has an estimated life expectancy of 79 years old as of 2016.

In Europe, the Principality of Monaco has the highest life expectancy at 89.47 years old. There are also 19 other European countries that have a life expectancy rating of more than 80 years old. These include San Marino, Andorra, Italy, Liechtenstein, France, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Germany, the UK, Greece, Austria, Malta, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The US ranks No. 53 exceeded by Taiwan and slightly above Bahrain.

Interestingly, Europeans particularly those who live in the European Union or the European Free Trade Association, are among those wiht the highest life expectancy. This is due in part to the unified effort of the European Economic Area to provide public healthcare access to anyone who has a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). With this card, people in European nations are able to obtain the same quality of healthcare that nationals of a particular member nation are entitled to.

This is something that is clearly missing in the US healthcare system. However, hope is not lost because the US now has the Affordable Care Act which is supposed make health insurance compulsory for everyone. Unfortunately, the fate of the limited universal public healthcare program of the US now rests on President Donald Trump and the Republican controlled Congress.

True, the US may be wealthier, and they may have the most advanced healthcare technologies but if only a few people can access these services, what’s the point? A much better model is the European system of public health care in which the US now officially recognizes as essential to the health of its citizens.

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Jack Carter

Jack Carter is an aspiring journalist from the UK, talking mainly about healthcare issues in Britain with the NHS and commenting on global healthcare, hoping one day everyone can have access to free healthcare. View all posts by Jack Carter

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