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How Health Care Varies By Nation: A Look Around the World

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Health care may be a hot topic in the United States, but it’s also an extremely important issue in countries all over the world, many of which operate very differently compared to our system. It’s easy to lose sight of these various approaches, but it’s helpful to learn about other methods and identify the advantages.

Canada’s Breakdown


Canada employs a government-run universal health care system. This means that Canadians pay higher income and sales tax, and as a result, every Canadian has full coverage. While they don’t have to pay out of pocket for general care, optometry, outpatient prescription drugs, and dentistry aren’t included in the coverage.

Tax rates vary in each province, but the average family in Canada pays about 48% of its income for the taxes that fund health care along with other services. They pay relatively high tax rates, but if they walk into a doctor’s office, there’s no co-pay, and they don’t have to pay for MRIs, CAT scans, or other tests.

Misconception: Even though Canada has universal health care, it’s not entirely nationalized; doctors provide medical services through private practices, and the government reimburses them.

China’s Breakdown


China’s health care system has been undergoing many changes for the last several years as it tries to expand coverage to people without access to health care. In the past, the Chinese health insurance has been market-based, but because that’s left a lot of people without health coverage, they’re transitioning to a universal health care strategy.

Currently more than 90% of the population has health care, but it’s not necessarily full coverage. Oftentimes, people have to pay out of pocket or get other types of insurance in order to fund the rest of the health costs. China wants to install universal health care to solve these problems, and they’re already making large strides in this direction.

Misconception: Even though China’s government was already providing small subsidies to its people to help with health care costs, the Chinese believe that increasing government spending on health care will allow people to stop saving as much and start spending (which will stimulate the economy).

United States’ Breakdown

The U.S. health system has a more privatized basis for its health insurance. A majority of people get health insurance through their employers, and everyone else can shop around and choose an insurance policy of their liking. For those who can’t afford health insurance, there are programs like Medicaid through which the government helps provide coverage for the poor.

Health insurance is delivered through HMOs (health maintenance organizations) and PPOs (preferred provider organizations). HMOs require the person to have a primary doctor (in a certain network of doctors) who then must approve a referral for the individual to see the needed specialists while PPOs allows people to see any doctor they desire. However, PPOs typically cost more for this reason.

Misconception: Obama’s health care plan doesn’t really take immediate effect. Most of its changes will occur starting in 2014.

Analysis of U.S. Care


In 2010, about 50 million Americans were uninsured, in part because the recession left many people unemployed and thus without their company’s health insurance. However, another main reason is that health costs have increased over the years, and some people are struggling to afford coverage.

The health care bill Obama signed in 2010 didn’t necessarily rock the foundations of our health care system — many of the typical health care services are still in place but did undergo alterations to help those who can’t afford health care. For example, some big benefits of the legislation include tax credits for people who can’t get cheaper coverage from work and the addition of millions of people who are now qualified for Medicaid.

The government is trying to ensure that every American has access to affordable coverage, but the system is still resolving issues. High medical coverage costs generate discontent, so the employer-based system has been getting some heat. However, many fear changing to a government-run medical program because they worry about the potential for wait times or lack of quality.

Regardless, the government has to manage the increasing costs of both coverage and prescription medications, as high prices are prompting people to put off medical assistance or purchase drugs from other countries.


No health care system is perfect. Some are better than others, but they all have their pros and cons. The important thing is to look at each technique and identify what works. Then, the good qualities can be applied to U.S. health care in order to lower costs and increase quality.

Contributor Tera Rowland

Tera Rowland is the vice president of Soliant and has worked in the healthcare staffing industry for almost 20 years in public relations, social media, marketing and operations. In addition to Soliant, Tera worked at the Mayo Clinic as an internal communication manager and for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the American Staffing Association. Also, Tera has served on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum as part of the communication committee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations as well as a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of North Florida and has been published in the Huffington Post, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare Traveler Magazine, and Scrubs Magazine. Make sure to read the rest of Tera's blogs!