I don’t often agree with former members of the George W. Bush regime. Although I served as a senior political appointee in the Reagan and “Papa” Bush administrations, I believe that “W” didmore long-term damage to the USA than any president in history. However, I largely agree with a recent op-ed by David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, about The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare.”
Writing in the Financial Times, Frum states that, despite its many faults, Obamacare did one important thing: extend health care coverage to almost all Americans. He argues that Obamacare should be reformed – not repealed – in favor of a national health care system that provides universal coverage with lower costs and less statism.
I agree, and believe that an excellent model exists in a country that many Republicans seem to revile: France.
Contrary to what most Americans (especially ignorant politicians) believe, the French national health system is not “socialist.” The French pay for health care through non-profit private insurance funds, not a cumbersome system of state-employed bureaucrats. Nearly 100% of France’s population has medical coverage, compared to 17% of Americans with no health insurance (50 million). About a third of Americans between ages 25 and 35 – the backbone of our future workforce – are uninsured.
Health care spending accounts for 11% of the French gross domestic product, versus 17% in the US. The American health care bureaucracy costs $560 per capita, whereas in France the number is less than $100 because the administration of the whole system is conducted in the private sector. Most French physicians are in private practice but draw their income from the insurance funds. The French government regulates health care by enforcing strict standards and setting premium levels and pricing related to income.
Like most European countries, France strictly limits the liability of doctors for malpractice claims, thus further reducing costs. In the US, medical tort settlements account for up to 15% of health care costs, and have driven many doctors to retire early or shun practicing in states where medical malpractice insurance costs are exorbitant.
The World Health Organization rates the French system as the world’s best in terms of availability and organization of health care providers. France was also ranked No. 1 among industrialized countries with the lowest rate of avoidable deaths. The US was last, in 19th place, with the highest rate of avoidable deaths.
I am a firm believer in universal national health care coverage. The health of a nation’s population is of vital social and political importance, and it has profound economic consequences. I think that “Obamacare” – although well intentioned – will prove to be an expensive, disruptive system that is doomed to failure. Contrary to what politicians like Mitt Romney claim, though, the national health systems in Europe are nothing like Obamacare.