Why US Pays More for Health Care Than Other Nations
More nationalized medicine for the U.S.?
"Britain holds down costs by a system that recommends which treatments hold value," says Herrick. "Some countries determine the quantity of resources to spend on different treatments. Canada has waiting lists for elective surgeries like hip replacements because of that."
Some of these facts of life may soon reach the U.S., which has limited nationalized medicine and is heading for more.
Like their foreign counterparts, Medicare/Medicaid and assistance to veterans have the ability to negotiate drug prices and set physician's fees. As a result, they are the slowest-growing parts of the American heath care system in terms of costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Then there is the sweeping Affordable Care Act. Passed into law but still undergoing legal challenges, the reform bill is expected to receive a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court next year. The majority of its provisions don't start until 2014.
The key part of the bill is the mandate for private health insurance that is designed to pool financial resources to cut overall costs. Critics of the plan say it will restrict medical accessalong the lines of other countries and will actually increase costs by forcing people to buy insurance.
"All health care is politics," says Bournemouth University's Colin Pritchard. "The key in most other countries is that they see health care as a general value to the community and nation as a whole, rather than just through the patient and their family."
In the end, analysts say, what any given nation spends on health care depends on what citizens want for themselves.
"The differences in health care systems across countries are basically differences in the tradeoffs they have chosen to make," says Baldwin.
"We deliver high quality care with broad access but our costs are higher than anywhere in the world," Baldwin goes on to say. "In Britain they deliver high quality care at reasonable cost but access is restricted. Which system is better or worse depends on the value you place on what you're trying to do."