August 10th, 2009
09:16 PM ET

A look at global health care systems

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/04/health.care/art.dem.health.cnn.jpg caption="Sen. Harry Reid speaks after a meeting with President Obama about a bipartisan health care bill."]


As President Obama tries to push through his health care reform, that includes ambitious plans to provide insurance for the estimated 50 million Americans without coverage, we look at how other countries around the globe handle citizen's health care needs.


All Canadians have health care coverage through the government. 70 percent of healthcare is publicly funded and 30 percent privately. Every province runs its own health care budget, although the federal government supplements some provinces that are not as prosperous as others.

It's a cost-effective system. Only 10 percent of GDP is spent, compared to nearly 16 percent of the US economy. And Canada only spends some $3.895 per person a year. Canada does have its problems, however, such as long wait times for some treatments and a shortage of doctors; Canada has 1 doctor for every 526 people, compared to 1 for every 416 people in the United States.


Germany has one of the oldest universal health care systems in the world, founded in 1883 by country's first chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Everyone must be covered and everyone should get equal treatment.


Filed under: Health Care
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Enough

    Julie – You get your facts from Michael Moore!! No wonder this country is in the mess it is! Don't believe everything that you see in the movies.

    August 11, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  2. Bev Buchanan

    I am a Canadian and have had no problems with our health care system! I feel we are fortunate to have our system and it works very well for us. My doctor is in a clinic with another doctor, 2 nurse practictioners, and a dietician. I actually called yesterday to make an appointment and am going this morning.
    I had a problem with my eye health and was not happy with diagnosis from first specialist. I asked for a second opinion, got to see a new specialist and within 2 weeks the problem had been rectified (laser surgery for narrow-angle glaucoma).
    We have 3 children and they have received nothing but top-notch treatment from our family physician. When my oldest son was very sick with mono, he was sent to a specialist THAT DAY in a larger centre and was seen by a nurse twice a day at home while he was recruperating. Our family doctor saw him every second day and on the days he didn't see him, he called our home to check on his progress.
    We have never had any problems with government intervention into our private medical issues and I believe this to be true of every Canadian I know!
    I think if more Americans took the time to really examine the Canadian Health system, they would be amazed to find how wonderful it truly is!

    August 11, 2009 at 10:15 am |
  3. sharon, sydney, ns

    Thanks for providing some info on other countries' health care systems. Given all the hype surrounding the town hall meetings regarding health care, I hope CNN does some kind of "keeping them honest" show in regard to the charges for and against health care reform in the States. Perhaps they could explain or quell a lot of the rhetoric that is being thrown around. I live in Canada and when I hear some of the garbage that is being said about our health care system I can only shake my head. Some kind of fact checking has to be done, I don't want the people of the US to make their decision on heath care reform, based on fear mongering.

    August 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  4. LarryKern

    There are so many different versions of the healthcare legislation, that I would like to see CNN take a couple of weeks and put the legislation on the television screen as it is read line by line. Then allow the viewers to call in and ask questions. It may be the surest way to get to the point at which we can really begin to debate the facts. I also believe that it may be worth considering a confrence of some of our global counterparts concerning healthcare. We could find out from them what they like, what they don't like, and what advice they might offer to the United States. Thank you

    August 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Kristi in kc

    France was the first country to establish a Fire Department back in the 1600's. Why is that important? People were paying 'fire insurance' the way we pay for health insurance, and those without insurance watched their houses burn to the ground. It was decided that this was inhumane. And France was the first country in the world to implement a Fire Department for all. Other countries, including the US would take centuries to catch on. Today, they top the list, ranked #1 in health care in the world. Regardless of how you feel about their politics, it seems that they are the torchbearers in human decency. Isn't it about time we get on the right side of history? Or should we continue our infantile behavior demanding that we prefer to make a buck on whoever is at the bottom of the food chain? I think the choice is clear.

    PS. Why is the Health Insurance Lobby spending $1.4 million dollars a day to stop reform?

    August 10, 2009 at 5:34 pm |
  6. Tim

    Being born with the genetic disability Osteogenesis Imperfecta 44 years ago, I have had a lifetime experience of the National Health Service in the UK – from the second I was born with part of my brain exposed to the present day when I require five medications a day plus oxygen therapy when I sleep, and I don't recognise the rationing and other criticisms of our system being trotted out by the lunatic-right. The only time treatment is unavailable is when it is awaiting licensing as safe, just in the same way as the FDA does. The Republican Party and their allies in the media owe it to the American people to tell the truth and quit the scare stories that are nothing more than lies.

    August 10, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  7. RLWellman

    We need to be just like Cuba? We can have universal health care, but what else? Live in mud huts or cardboard shacks? Have a dictator that takes all your money and gives you back what he wants to?

    Is this what America should do? Is this what you really want?

    We live in the best country in the world. We do need health care reform. But, we do not need the Government to run this program. They do not need any more power than they already have.

    They should use the power they have to help cut down the costs of our existing programs. They need to come up with a health care reform that they will use, not one that is just good enough for us.

    August 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  8. Lindy

    I agree with Julie. Michael Moore's film, "Sicko" needs to be re-visited to show the public what other first-world nations are getting in terms of health-care plans.

    I think that the profit motive by big insurance companies and Big Pharma have driven our own system to the brink of disaster. We have the AMA which opposes reform. (The nurses seem to think the opposite.) As long as corporate entities are making money off our illness, there can be no change, and the health-care lobby in Washington will make sure of that.

    I have the Cadillac of health-insurance plans through my employer which I have to pay for ($650.mo. matched by my employer) = $15,000 a year for a single person. I can honestly say that I do not get the best treatment, and I waited three months to see a specialist. I still have a problem, so I am not yet well. I would like to see what would happen if I were treated in a different country.

    August 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  9. lampe

    Michael: I totally agree with you. Why not start this thing out small, and see how it plays out. Then if it works The American people can see it working, and not be so afraid of the unknown.

    August 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  10. Julie

    Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" is a good treatise on comparisons between the US system and other systems in the world. Michael travels to Canada and France to ask real people what they think about the quality of healthcare they get. After American first responders at 9/11 are not able to get the healthcare they need, Michael takes them to Cuba where – you guessed it – they have universal healthcare. Castro and company provides free medical care for the brave firemen, police, and other first responders who put their life on the line for our country.

    Gotta love Michael Moore. He tells, or rather shows, it like it is.

    August 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  11. bill shaw

    To eliminate all of the confusion, why not both sides of the Healthcare issue stop lying and appoint a non-bias person to read the bill and in layman's terms tell everyone what it truthfully says ????? Is this too simple or does everyone really want to say the other is lying ???

    August 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  12. Debbie Schrenk

    I think the government officials should have the same health care as they decide on for the rest of us. They are suppose to be representing us, so why their healthcare is a seperate item is beyond me....

    August 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  13. Jennifer Stannard

    The Canadian health system may not be perfect, but it's probably as close as it gets these days if you are not loaded with cash. If you don't want to wait, you can pay privately to have the tests done. At least the cost is OPTIONAL. There are more people that go without. People in countries that require payment for just regular visits is causing some people to get sick or even die! This is the most important reasons I would never move away from my homeland.

    August 10, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  14. Lilibeth

    Perhaps we should discuss other countries' health care systems in 360 and try to figure out which system could work best for the US. Then this could be a springboard to more international reporting by 360. This is why it's important to see what other countries are doing. I'm not saying we should imitate what they're doing, but we can learn from them and they can learn from us. We are global citizens and certainly more knowledge can help all of us.

    Edmonds, Washington

    August 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  15. RLWellman

    The liberals that want Government to pay and run health care can go to Germany. They will fit right in there!

    August 10, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  16. bob in dallas

    Thanks for showing the different plans. I honestly have heard few complaints from other countries on health care. I only hear republican telling horror stories they claim are true

    August 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  17. Erik H

    My Canadian friends say they have great health care at a low cost. Why don't we just copy their system.

    August 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  18. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Yes that right,we in Germany has one of the oldest and best health care system in the world,
    But its changing ,because there is no money at all.Erveryone must be covererd,but sometimes the doctors can make really necessery test Since maybe two years,we have to pay a lot of medicin or medicin test ourself.
    I think after the German election,we have to realize that we have not the worldwight best system at all.

    August 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  19. Tanya Marie

    The best way to get a comprehensive health care plan is to immediately stop providing health care benefits to congressmen and senators. If lawmakers had to provide coverage for themselves and their families, maybe there would be a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill to figure out a fair and just program for ALL Americans. Besides, think of all the money taxpayers could save if we didn't have to pay for all those government officials' "Rolls Royce" style health care benefits!

    August 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  20. earle,florida

    All of a sudden the United States has to use the G-20 countries as a benchmark for it's own healthcare system,what gives? I'm curious as to what the Chinese,Russians,and Saudi Arabia,Jordan,Israel, Egypt,South Africa,etc.,pay ,being on the periphery of the Industrial Nations for their healthcare? Since when do we use, ten/twenty years out to evaluate, what percentage of GDP is correct, to facilitate our unrealistic financial goals? Or is it just,"Shock Therapy" from the far left...,or even the far right,but whatever it is,it ain't getting the "hip-hip-horrah muster" from the populus! I've studied the governments GAO (Government Accounting Office),and CBO (Congressional Budget Office) guesstimates,and they set the bar high (Stratosphere) enough that even, "Bernie Maddof " could be out of prison,and living in Hawaii two years from now! Say it ain't so,...? PS When Uncle Sam says $1.0tn.,the actual number is half that,kind-of like "Believe nothing you Hear,Half of what you See,and don't even believe that,for what you see is actually not all cracked up to be, just that"? Confused, I hope so,...

    August 10, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  21. R. L. Sapp

    Please someone tell me I missed it on CNN or the other major news media sources ..... Did CNN report on how poorly President Obama was treated in his July 14, 2009 visit to Russia? I ask because race was such a openly talked-about subject during the election, which was good for the US. I now want to know if I just missed the report or was it not reported and I would also like to know Anderson if you and your panel of guest thing the treatment was racially sparked or motivated?

    Thank you,

    August 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  22. Michael C. McHugh

    Here's a suggestion for health care reform. Why pass it all in one big bill? Why not break it up into smaller bills and pass them separately?

    Then could be a bill for Medicaid expansion, for example, and another for private insurance reforms, and yet another for reform, and expansion of public hospitals and health care.

    Save the most difficult and contentious issue for last–Medicare, single payer, cooperatives, public option. In that, there will be choices for the states to make, since I don't think there's going to be one single program run from the federal level in this area.

    August 10, 2009 at 1:41 pm |