A Reflection of the US Health Care System Supplemented by Reid’s The Healing of America
Reid’s The Healing of America shows that although America is a rich, developed nation, we are the only developed nation without a health care system that insures everybody. Reid tells of other different health care systems in a variety of countries from the Bismarck model to the out-of-pocket model. He critiques each model, but shows although these systems have their flaws, they are still better than the US health care system, with exception to the out-of-pocket model. Reid does this very well by showing example stories of each system. In the US health care system, the story of Nikki White shows an example of why this system fails certain people (Reid 1). Her tragedy shows why the US health care system needs to change. Although I knew that what happened to Nikki White happens to many people, giving a name and history of the person brings them to life.
One part of the book which irked me was not related to healthcare, but Reid’s translation of “~sama” from Japanese to English. Every time he translated this word in his book, he would say “the highly honorable”, which felt as if he was stroking his ego (Reid 102). Although “the highly honorable” is the technical translation of the word, using “sir” or “Mr.” is a better translation. As someone who is half-Japanese and has taken Japanese in my undergrad, I felt Reid’s inability to properly translate undermined his argument. If Reid could not properly translate the language barrier, how could I trust Reid to translate the different health care systems? Also, any US citizen would find the Japanese strange by using “the highly honorable”, and furthers the argument that Japan is too different from the US for the US to copy the Japanese health care model. This is not the only incident Reid has made other countries seem to different from the US. When describing Mrs. Rama and her yajnopathic analysis, instead of speaking about the history of yajnopathic and why this is important to the culture of the area, he ridicules it (Reid 5). Ms. Rama may have been incorrect in some of her guesses of Reid’s past, but it did not appear that Mrs. Rama was doing this to waste Reid’s time, but because it was important to the healing process (Reid 5). Although the purpose of Reid’s book is to show we could emulate other country’s health care systems, Reid did not do a great job giving some similarities between the US and the other countries, which is unfortunate because there are many issues, we have in the US which could be fixed by following other health care models.
Although I knew other countries had better prenatal and pregnancy care than the US, I did not know the extent of it. In the UK, all prenatal services and other pregnancy care were covered as soon as the pregnancy test showed positive (Reid 202). Meanwhile in the US, those who are poorer cannot afford to have regular check-ups on their pregnancy. This is not surprising considering those who are in power are not the ones who can fully understand what a woman goes through during her pregnancy and how surprisingly dangerous pregnancy can be. Parents also can have paid leave in other developed countries, but not in the US. In a John Oliver segment, he talks about one woman who had to use her sick days to be with her baby after she delivered, but the woman could not see herself not working for more than a month (Oliver). Oliver also talks about how in baseball, players are allowed to take three days off when their wives deliver a child, but this time is generally not used (Oliver). When one baseball player used this time, media outlets questioned why this baseball player would want to be with his newborn, which is ridiculous (Oliver). Why are we questioning why a father would spend more time with his kids? This is one issue we have in the US, which we could fix by using the model that other countries use, such as the NHS model in the UK.
Another issue that the US has is still using paper copies of patient records. I would like to know why the US has not changed to a digital format for records. I understand that the US is very slow when it comes to change in new technologies, within governments and institutions, but even now, many records are in paper format. I recently went to a doctor’s appointment where the doctor was writing notes with pen and paper even though there was a computer right next to him. The nurse even used the computer to input vital signs. Now, there are two different records in my name, an electronic and a written one. This is entirely inefficient, especially because what if the written records become lost? In the digital realm, you are less likely to lose part of a patient’s file because everything is stored in one place. Reid also mentions many times that countries which have electronic records save money on administrative fees. This is just one of many other issues that the US has with its health care system that other countries do not.
The overall issue in the US is that people can be uninsured when they need it the most. One example given in the book is when Melissa Matthews was told she had cervical cancer while in prison (Reid 219). She turned down parole just so she could still be treated in jail because she knew that once she got out, she would not be able to get the treatment for her cancer (Reid 219). The prison system already has so many flaws, such as the rate of prisoners who go back to prison after getting out, prisoners working for less than minimum wage while in prison, and the systematic racism. It is another flaw in the system when a prisoner has to turn down parole just to stay in prison to get treatment. It really makes one wonder what is the purpose of prison, if prisoners would rather stay jailed rather than be free.
The book talks about how much physicians are paid in other countries. Although many are paid over $100,000 dollars, this is significantly less than their American counterparts. This shows a deeper problem within the American education system. One reason why doctors have to make so much in the US is because of the amount of debt they have by the time they are out of medical school. In other countries, medical school is either free or mostly covered through programs. If doctors in the US did not have so much debt, they could be paid a similar amount to their European counterparts. The remaining money could then go to fund other resources within the hospital, such as health care improvement. Another related issue we have in the US is a physician shortage. This shortage is related to the amount of debt doctors go in when they finish medical school. As a doctor who has incurred much debt, it is not economically wise to become a primary doctor. The more specialized you are, the more money you make to pay off your debt. This is entirely inverse to the rest of the world. With the lack of primary doctors, patients will have to pay more for care, if they go to a specialized doctor. If we want to change the system of having patients go to a primary doctor first, we will need to have education reform as well. Unfortunately, changing both systems may be considered too difficult and the change will be slow.
One reason why this change may be difficult for physicians in the US is because physicians are not allowed to protest. This is different than other countries where physicians have protested for making too little for how much work they do. I did not know that physicians could not protest in the US until a visiting medical student told me about problems she has with the medical system. I am unable to find the exact law that states this. For the fact Americans love to strongly defend their right to speech, it is surprising that there is a group of Americans who cannot have their opinions voiced.
Although change is slow in the US, one Democratic candidate has been pushing universal health care since the 2016 election. Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner in creating a political movement. One of the platforms of this movement is universal healthcare. I would like to know Reid’s opinion on how Sanders will implement universal healthcare. In a recent Fox News town hall meeting, Sanders describes that the US would need to increase taxes to help pay for healthcare for all, but at the exchange of eliminating co-pay, deductibles, and premiums (The DC Shorts). This will have Americans pay less than what they are paying now. He gave a statistic that a self-employed person with a spouse and two kids will spend, on average, around $28,000 per year on healthcare (The DC Shorts). I found his model to be similar to the National Health Insurance or Bismarck model because the model Sanders talks about does not say anything about government owning any hospitals. The difference would come down to if the insurance is government-run or if there will be multiple health insurance plans to cover everybody.
I have had some experience being in the health care system. When I was in undergrad, I had a medical emergency, which required surgery. Reid talks about how Americans do not know how much many surgeries will cost because the surgery is not given in one bill. Even 2 years after the surgery, I kept getting bills with the last one for anesthesia. It didn’t make much sense to me why it was difficult to bill everything together, similarly to going to a grocery store and ringing all the items together.
In conclusion, there are plenty of examples from the real world and Reid’s book that the US health care system needs to be fixed. Reid’s argument may sometimes be flawed when explaining why other health care systems may be better than the US, but his numerous examples from his and others’ lives show we need to make a change in the US. The issues in the US in the health care system range from the amount of administrative work, which keep the hospital bills up to having mystery costs for operations. The problems in the health care system also entangled with the education system and the prison system which means that a reform in one system needs to also fix the problems in the other systems. Since the 2016 election, I believe many Americans are finally understanding why we need universal health care and the benefits of a system and, in the future, Americans will finally be able to live in a developed, rich country with universal health care.