Comparing Healthcare Services

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

Geographical inequalities exist in healthcare systems internationally, between developed & developing countries. When considering healthcare systems, it’s therefore important to consider several different equality aspects of the healthcare system. These aspects are:

  1. Equality of public expenditure - Every person in a country should have a fair share of available resources. Some individuals have different needs which may lead to inequality however.
  2. Equality of real income - Health care benefits, when added to a person’s salary, result in a “final income”. People who earn less should receive a higher proportion of healthcare provisions.
  3. Equality of use - All individuals should have equal access to healthcare services according to their need.
  4. Equality of cost - Individuals should make some voluntary contributions to top of any state expenditures on their healthcare, either through insurance or direct payment.
  5. Equality of outcome - Resources should be provided to ensure equality of health, not just to provide treatment of ill health.

Socialist Healthcare Systems - The UK & The NHS

How It’s Funded

The NHS is a publicly funded healthcare system that is payed for by the government via taxes. The NHS accounts for around 16.5% of the UK government’s total spending.

How It Works

People are able to choose a GP of their own liking and can swap and change GPs whenever they wish. Despite this, many GPs will only accept patients from a small catchment area, so in reality, there’s a lot less choice in a person’s GP. The GP acts as an access point to the NHS’s specialist services. When a patient has a medical problem they can book an appointment with a GP who will then see the patient and attempt to diagnose them with a condition. Once the patient has been diagnosed, or if he/she can’t be diagnosed, the patient is referred to a relevant department within a hospital or specialist treatment centre so that they can receive the care that they need.

Obviously the GP method won’t work during an emergency which is where the A&E (Accident & Emergency) department comes into play. All hospital’s have an A&E department and it is a walk in department for people who have suddenly fallen critically ill. People can receive specialist treatment from an A&E department without a referral from their GP.

Who Can Access It?

Anybody can access the NHS health service, even those who don’t pay their national insurance tax such as immigrants. The only difficulty arrises when someone without an address tries to use the service. In order to obtain a GP, a person must have an address, so a homeless individual’s medical care would be limited to the A&E section of hospital’s only. The person would be unable to receive any follow up care after treatment in A&E due to their lack of a GP.

Forced Healthcare - France

How It’s Funded

The French system is a compulsory healthcare system in that people are required to pay a percentage of their salary towards a health insurance. The amount is very small, less than 1% of their salary, with employers paying 12.8% of their salary to make up the rest of the health insurance. In addition to this mandatory payment, people can choose to pay an optional top-up fee of 2.5% their salary to cover the costs of more types of treatment and to receive an overall better experience in the healthcare system. People who earn less than €6,600 per year are not required to pay health insurance as their healthcare is covered by the state.

How It Works

Similar to the UK, people have access to GPs (these are general physicians though and not general practitioners). These GPs provide basic medical services and can diagnose people with illnesses and provide a limited amount of treatment. Unlike in the UK, however, switching GPs is far easier in France as people aren’t bound to a specific GP. In addition, a referral from a GP is not required for any specialist treatment at a hospital, people can just walk in and make an appointment for treatment.

Who Can Access It?

All French nationals can access the healthcare system as they will have either payed an insurance contribution or they’ll be covered by the state.

Voluntary Healthcare - The USA

How It’s Funded

Healthcare in the USA is almost entirely private and is based on the free market and survival of the richest models. Individuals must choose a health insurance package that covers certain types of treatments and pay a monthly or yearly fee for that insurance. The cost of health insurance varies based on the package a person has. On average, healthcare for a family of four costs around $10,000 per year (about ½ the yearly wage of a Walmart employee). The health care services themselves receive little in terms of funding from the government, instead relying on payments from people for treatment.

How It Works

Much like the French system, people can receive general treatments from a physician or receive specialist treatment at a hospital without the need for a referral. The treatment that a person can receive, however, is limited to the health insurance package that they are paying for.

Who Can Access It?

As mentioned above, provided a person is paying enough for their insurance, they can access any health care services. If a person doesn’t have the right insurance package for their treatment though, or if the person just doesn’t have insurance, they must either pay the full price of the treatment upfront, beg for help from a charity or just do without the treatment. For people without insurance, a service called Medicaid provides very basic treatment from the state however it’s very limited in terms of what treatment people can access. Medicare is a service that provides health insurance to those over the age of 65, again, paid for by the state.