European Healthcare – Is the Grass Really Greener?
In the mounting debate for healthcare reform and the quest for affordable health insurance many have turned to the idea of Universal Healthcare. In casual conversations, in movies like “Sicko” and even in the halls of congress, those who advocate Universal Healthcare turn to Europe as an example.
But when it comes to affordable health insurance and healthcare in general is the grass truly greener across the pond?
Many accounts and actual studies would seem to indicate, “Yes”. It is true that the United States scores abysmally lower in all major parameters regarding healthcare globally, this despite spending more money on healthcare than most other industrialized nations. That includes statistics on infant mortality. Those who argue against universal health insurance claim it will lead to long lines and long waits, yet people wait in line far longer for care in places like Los Angeles and Miami, than they do in Paris or Hamburg. Opponents of adopting a European style health insurance system say their universal healthcare model results in rushed and impersonal treatment. In Germany new mothers are given four days or more to recover in hospital after giving birth. Here even if a mother has health insurance coverage for maternity, the insurance companies insist mother and baby be pushed out in less than two days.
Japan has more CT Scanners and MRI’s per person than we do here in the states. So much for the “we have more advanced technology than they do”
In the face of all of these seeming advantages to the European System of health insurance one argument often made in favor of our current system has to do with delivery of “High End” healthcare. This argument goes that while all of those statistics about America’s overall ranking in healthcare may be true, when it comes to access to the latest and greatest treatments of the most serious diseases like cancer, nobody comes close. While it is true that overall the US has a better cancer cure rate for certain cancers, such as Prostate and Breast Cancer, we are hardly stand alone leader in the cure rates of all cancers.
In fact a recent study which appeared in the Annals of Oncology that was designed to measure cancer cure rates against countries accessibility to the latest cancer drugs, the United States did appear in the top tier. Right alongside France, Switzerland, and Australia. When the authors of the survey were asked if overall did any one country of those top four standout above the rest, they responded “No not really”. And again while the U.S. is the recognized leader in success rates for prostate and breast cancer, the Swedes have greater cure rates with cervical and ovarian cancer. The French showed superior numbers on stomach cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.