What Can the US Learn from the Healthcare Systems of Other G7 Countries?

The US health system has been the subject of passionate debate for many years, more so now that the Affordable Care Act has been put into place. Both political parties argue about what the country’s healthcare system should look like, with neither side seeming to have any well planned out ideas. As a member of the G7, the US might benefit from a comparison with their counterparts, all of which have a higher efficiency for cost rate according to a .

: In the UK, the NHS (National Health Service) is both loved and hated in equal measure. Simultaneously lambasted for long waiting times and adored for free care at the point of delivery, its scale beggars belief (it is one of the top five biggest employers in the world).

88% of prescriptions are covered by the NHS. By the NHS running the healthcare system, the UK also saves money on administrator costs. How the system is funded, managed and performs is a source of constant public discussion. Even though the current coalition government has ringfenced spending on healthcare, health and social workers are increasingly stretched. According to , the UK needs to recruit 70,000 additional social care professionals by 2050, which is an indication of the strain their system is under.

The lesson here is that endless amounts of money will not fix healthcare, particularly, as it is in the UK, when a population is ageing.

: In France, everyone’s medical bills are paid for by the government. This is funded by payroll and income taxes that are collected. The remainder of a person’s medical bills (if there are any) is then paid for by their supplemental insurance. Everyone is entitled to the insurance, even undocumented immigrants.

In the French , patients also have the right to pick their own primary care doctors and specialists with only minimal restrictions for the latter. Doctors can also choose what treatment methods to use, even if it is a cutting-edge treatment.

: In Germany, 90% of the population are on the public healthcare system with the remainder paying for private insurance. Employers and workers both pay half of the premium but, unlike in the US, the individual picks their health plan, not the employer. The unemployed are covered under unemployment insurance, while the community as a whole foots the bill for the poor. Pensions cover retirees.

There is a small co-pay of around 10 Euros upon a person’s first visit to a doctor in the first quarter of the year. There is no haggling over medical fees: the doctor inputs a code/s into the computer and swipes an insurance card much like a credit card, which then sends out a bill. As in France, everyone is covered, including illegal immigrants.

: America’s northern neighbor has a single-payer system with the government acting as the single-payer. The national healthcare system in Canada is run by a centralized body that sets standards for the country’s 13 provinces to follow. If they don’t follow the standards they don’t get funding for their province. All of the hospitals are private and nonprofit with their own governance, creating a balanced private and public ownership.

When compared to the US, doctors in Canada spend since they don’t have to hire outside administrators to deal with an array of insurance providers. Notably, they also spend less time on the phone with those providers in order to get permission to do certain procedures or tests on patients.

: Here the government created flat rates for all medications, procedures, and other medical expenses. This eliminates competition between insurance companies since there is a fixed rate. Hospitals are private, but the government sets stringent regulations to make sure the system remains universal.

Overall, Japan has universal mandatory healthcare that is funded from payroll taxes that are paid by both the worker and employer. Self-employed individuals pay a premium based on their income.

: In Italy, an individual’s health coverage is paid for by taxes collected for that specific purpose. They can choose to purchase private insurance as a backup medical plan, but are not required to. Citizens do have to pay fees for specialists and prescriptions, but this varies by state and is said to be no more than for the most part.


All in all, if the US can figure out a way to lower administrative costs and close loopholes and policies that give private insurance companies power over the system, they could have a better system. Couple that with their advanced technologies, cutting-edge medical research, and well-trained doctors, the healthcare system could better serve the public.

There are issues around illegal immigrants, primarily in European healthcare systems, that could not conceivably be introduced in the US any time soon. Do bear in mind that while European healthcare is more ‘open’ with respect to citizenship, there is a growing opposition to this policy. Years of austerity has hardened public attitude and media coverage of healthcare systems being put under unnecessary pressure due to highly pulicized immigrant health tourists has pushed the public to the right on the issue. It would seem that, at least in relation to the handling of this issue, the Europeans are gradually adopting an America position.

Sasha Dlinni is a writer who originally hails from NYC. After years slugging it out managing various magazines in the city, he fled the rat race and moved to Europe, which has given him an informed, first-hand angle on this post. From his new base, he has been developing his writing as a freelancer and also teaches English as a foreign language in local schools.


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