“Sick Around the World”

The documentary “Sick around the World” follows correspondent T.R. Reid as he travels around the world looking at the health systems of five different countries, England, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland. The healers in this documentary could be considered the health care system and are held in high regard by all the countries, for the most part. Apart from England whose health system is solely government operated, all the countries share some commonalities in terms of health care provision. The very first commonality is that all the natives of the countries mentioned are mandated to buy into health insurance. Those that cannot afford to do so have their premiums picked up by the government. Health insurers cannot deny anyone based on a pre-existing health issue and they cannot attempt to profit off basic health care (such as wellness checkups). Finally, the doctors and hospitals are compelled to accept and set standardized fees and prices based on negotiations with the government.

All of these countries provide health care in an efficient manner, which means that citizens will never suffer bankruptcy due to medical bills. Incidentally, none of their administrative costs are in double figures, unlike America. Surveys of citizens of the countries analyzed showed that they were satisfied with their health systems. Doctors are highly respected by patients but none of the doctors earned comparatively to American doctors. However, they also did not face high malpractice insurance fees or overheads. Though in England, the waiting times could be months or even years, most of the countries had no or little waiting time to be seen by a doctor, allowing better patient interaction. In the two eastern countries, Japan and Taiwan, holistic medicine, such as acupuncture was included in the coverage, and Germany also allowed patients to go to spas if their health condition warranted it. The president of the Switzerland government summarized how the body is understood and treated by all the countries evaluated, saying “It is a basic human right to have universal health care”.


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  1. Rebecca Chockley says:

    In “Sick Around the World”, one of the main differences that I noticed between our healthcare system and those featured in the documentary is the focus on preventative care. The general practitioner in Britain for example gets a bonus for keeping his patients healthy. A woman from Japan said that she thinks their system is great because of the regular checkups that she receives. Regular maintain type care would go a long way toward reducing our costs and increasing the overall health level of our citizens.
    Another major component to the success of the other countries’ systems is that the government in some way regulates what the medical profession can charge for services and makes basic healthcare a not for profit system. Competition between sickness funds, as they were called in Germany, was not hindered by making the companies non-profit. We need to take the profit out of healthcare.
    Each of the healthcare systems reviewed had its own set of challenges, but overall the pros outweighed the cons. We know that our system doesn’t work because we rank so poorly against other rich nations. We spend more to get less. The trouble seems to be in getting everyone to see that universal healthcare is the right thing to do. The end of the film seems to have summed it up well, for veterans the system is like Britain’s, for retirees it is like Taiwan, and for the poor it is like all the other poor nations.

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