How two countries handle illness prevention

“How two countries handle illness prevention”
Published 18 Jan 2018 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

Preventing or addressing an early-stage medical condition is a big piece of the health care puzzle. But the practice is sporadic in both the US and Switzerland.

In our previous articles on American and Swiss health care, much of the focus has been on the costs, consequences, and construction of health care delivery systems in the US and Switzerland. That’s to say, we’ve mostly worried about the particulars of a patient getting treatment for conditions.

But health care is not just provided once a condition is diagnosed, or an injury needs treatment.

Preventive medicine is also a big piece of the puzzle. Health care screenings, vaccinations or education campaigns all add to a longer view of health care delivery. It’s not just about visiting a doctor for treatment; it’s also about living with healthy habits and periodically getting checked out to make sure nothing is developing.

Proponents credit preventive medicine with lowering costs and helping improve health outcomes over time. A 2006 studyexternal link concluded that focusing on things like tobacco cessation programs and daily aspirin use would have led to longer lives and $3.7 billion in US health care savings…”

Read the whole article at Swissinfo.ch

What’s being done to bring down high drug costs?

“What’s being done to bring down high drug costs?”
Published 28 Dec 2017 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

“…Americans, just as well as Swiss, have been asking why such high prices are the norm. Some US observers think plainly, “because there’s nothing stopping them”.

Prices in the US are determined by the market, or by negotiated deals with insurance companies. The government does not impose price controls, even for Medicare patients. The full-service healthcare system of the Veterans Administration (VA) does negotiate prices, and some states have tried to link state healthcare drug costs to those of the VA, but in both California and Ohio voters have said no, largely because the issue is complicated and unclear.

The US is also prescribing drugs more than other countries, for ailments connected to things like obesity, which preventive medicine initiatives aim to head-off. (We’ll cover preventive medicine in our next article)

What’s clear is people in both Switzerland and the US are talking about how expensive drugs are, but what’s to be done…”

Read the whole article at Swissinfo.ch

Caring for those who cannot afford health coverage

“Caring for those who cannot afford health coverage”
Published 30 Nov 2017 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

“…Health care in the United States has prompted aggressively partisan debates about the role of government in social services, about costs, and even about taxes. Most skirmishes don’t include extended bipartisan recognition of the people who fall through the cracks of the American patchwork system, and the threads by which some of them are barely hanging on.

Even with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, there are still 28 million non-elderly uninsured people in the country. Although Obamacare expanded health coverage and assistance for millions of people, it doesn’t equate to universal coverage. Cost is a big reason why people remain uninsured, and for some, a lack of legal immigration status prevents getting insurance. Others without insurance faced a problem of making too much money to qualify for subsidies on the insurance exchanges, so they opt to roll the dice without insurance rather than pay full price.

A major group helped by the ACA are those too poor to have insurance through an employer plan or through the open market. Medicaid is the main public program available to help low-income or some disabled individuals (it covers 62 million people). A similar program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, helps cover children. Part of the ACA allowed for states to expand Medicaid coverage, opening up Medicaid to people who weren’t initially eligible. But states weren’t forced to expand the program and could structure it to their preferences, which has led to a disparate system…”

Read the full article at swissinfo.ch 

Do American and Swiss patients get what they pay for?

“Do American and Swiss patients get what they pay for?”
Published 16 Nov 2017 | swissinfo.ch
by Tony Ganzer and Geraldine Wong Sak Hoi

“Health care doesn’t come cheap in the United States or Switzerland, and depending on your situation, the bill can vary widely. Are Americans and the Swiss getting top-quality care for their money?

Several readers wanted to know how much residents in the two countries pay for health care, in terms of public and private contributions, and whether the quality of care justifies the costs.

We’ve already given a primer on the health care systems in each country, and how many different insurance options US residents have depending on how much they make, what they do, and how old they are.

What does it cost, and why?

US healthcare spending is a whopping 17% of GDP, or more than $9,000 per capita. (Some estimates put the cost per person over $10,000).  By comparison, Switzerland spends about 12% of GDP, at more than $6,300 per capita.

One reason for the higher cost in the US is that variety in coverage we mentioned before.  With so many different insurance options and programs, there are lots of opportunities for increased administrative costs, and variety in how people might interact with health care services. It’s more expensive for someone to just go to an emergency room than deal with a doctor visit, for example.  The EMTALA Act requires that the public have access to emergency care regardless of ability to pay. But that was meant to enable a patient to be stabilized and not as a general health care solution.

In some ways the Swiss health care system before reform looked a lot like the core of the US system. What changes did Switzerland make?

The biggest reasons for higher health care costs in the US might be linked to two things: prices and patients.”

Read the full article at swissinfo.ch