What is the United States’ Healthcare System Like?
Dr. Sean Masaki Flynn explains the healthcare system in the United States as a “third-party payer system.” This means that when we go to see the doctor, we are the not the ones who are paying for it (not directly, anyway). Medical providers receive their pay from private insurance companies or the government. Dr. Flynn states that among many problems, this is a hassle that has made the profession unappealing to the younger generation. There is a lot of lost talent because of the hassle that our system puts providers through. In his lecture, Dr. Flynn shares that the United States spends roughly 18% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare. This is a higher percentage than even the countries with universal healthcare.
What Problems are Created by this System?
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that even though our country spends so much on healthcare, our healthcare system is very much failing us. Because of our third-party payer system, medical providers do not have the incentive to create value for patients - like a competitive market would require. Providers usually only offer services that are covered by insurance because they have no reason to do otherwise. An example given by Dr. Flynn is the emergence of virtual doctor appointments. Before COVID, this service was nonexistent simply because private insurance companies would not pay for it. Think of how much value virtual appointments have created for society. This would have been implemented much sooner if providers were focused on creating the best possible experience for their patients.
What is an Example of a Successful Healthcare System?
Dr. Flynn shared a prime example of a successful healthcare system: Singapore’s. In contrast to the United State’s 18% GDP spent on healthcare, Singapore only spends 5% and has a much more efficient and effective system in place. Singapore has the best healthcare outcomes in the world with the lower child mortality rates, longer life expectancy, and cheaper costs - just to name a few. How is this possible? Singapore puts the responsibility of saving for healthcare in the hands of the people. This creates a competitive market and therefore keeps costs down for everyone involved. Quality is also improved when providers are striving to create the most value for their patients.
Though Singapore is a successful example, I am not sure that I agree with Dr. Flynn on the need for mandatory healthcare savings. I love the idea of a decentralized and competitive market, but I am never in favor or requiring citizens to do anything that doesn’t affect others. If someone does not want to save for their retirement, then they should not have to. BUT, It should not be the job of the government to bail them out when they are left with nothing. For the people who do want to save, I am in favor of leaving the third-party payer system behind. Let the people have a free market where the most value is created.
The lecture referenced is “The Cure That Works: How to Have the World’s Best Healthcare - at a Quarter of the Price” by Dr. Sean Masaki Flynn.