Is World Outpacing U.S. on Health Care?
Even as Americans debate whether President Obama’s health-care law and its promise of guaranteed health coverage should be scrapped, many far less affluent nations are moving in the opposite direction — to provide medical insurance to all citizens.
China, after years of underfunding health care, is on track to complete a three-year, $124 billion initiative projected to cover more than 90 percent of the nation’s residents.
Mexico, which a decade ago covered less than half its population, completed an eight-year drive for universal coverage that has dramatically expanded Mexicans’ access to life-saving treatments for diseases such as leukemia and breast cancer.
In Thailand, where the gross domestic product per person is one-fifth that of the United States, just 1 percent of the population lacks health insurance. And in sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda and Ghana — two of the world’s poorest nations — are working to create networks of insurance plans to cover their citizens.
“This is truly a global movement,” said Julio Frenk, a former health minister in Mexico and dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. “As countries advance, they are realizing that creating universal health-care systems is a necessity for long-term economic development.”