US healthcare is so fantastically broken

The US spends 0.5% more of GDP than the UK on government healthcare programs and covers only 22% of the population. That is obscene.

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Source: Equitable Growth

Let’s get this out of the way: I have no doubt that if you have a lot of money in the US, you can get the best healthcare in the world. The problem is, the wealth distribution curve in the US looks particularly lopsided.

So, in other words, it’s not all that meaningful to have the best healthcare in the world — if you also have some of the worst.

I would argue that you judge a healthcare system not by its peak performance, but by the average health outcomes across the population…

Compare the health and life expectancy numbers from the CIA World Factbook and a pattern emerges…

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Source: UK / US

Which wouldn’t be so big of a deal, if the spending was similar — but it isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Let’s take a closer look:

UK healthcare spending

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In the UK, the government spends $164bn per year (6.3% of GDP) on the NHS — which covers every man, woman, and child in the country. The country’s inhabitants spend an additional $78bn on private healthcare. Total healthcare spending is 9.23% of GDP .

Compare that with…

US healthcare spending

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In the US, the government spends $1.2tn (6.8% of GDP) on Medicare and Medicaid, which covers around 22% of the population. In addition, people living in the US spend an additional $2.2tn on their healthcare, spending a total of 18% of GDP on keeping themselves healthy.

So, what’s the problem?

The US economy is vastly bigger than the UK’s, which should come with incredible gains in efficiency compared to that of the UK. The National Health Service in the UK isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it doesn’t leave 78% of the population to fend for themselves.

Gandhi said that “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.” In the field of healthcare, the US is doing an astonishingly embarrassing job. As a population, we deserve better.

There’s an inherent conflict of interest: Universal healthcare would cost healthcare companies money. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and they have an incentive to block universal healthcare from happening. The problem is further compounded by spineless politicians in a system fueled by money. The people who would have the power to make changes, need to get elected. To get elected, you need huge donors. Guess who has a lot of money? The healthcare industry.

Ultimately, the people who lose out are those who need it the most: the poor, the vulnerable, the left behind. This didn’t happen by accident. Those groups have been ignored by politicians for generations. Politicians should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Written by

CEO of Konf, pitch coach for startups, enthusiastic dabbler in photography.

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