An interesting article titled “How affordable is health care in the United States and other countries,” appears in the May 2014, issue of JADA written by Dr. Marko Vujicic (vol. 145, no. 5, pp. 482-483). The article discusses how the cost of medical and dental care stacks up against 10 other countries.
The article opens by addressing how the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country but that the by measures of access, efficiency, and satisfaction of health care the U.S. ranks below lower spending countries. This is believe to be partially due to wasteful spending which the Affordable Care Act may help reduce.
The article discusses data from the Commonwealth Fund which presents data for 11 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries showing the percentage of adults who can not obtain medical or dental care due to cost. This shows that in the U.S. the percentage of adults who do not obtain both medical and dental care is higher than all the 10 other countries (New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Canada, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom). It also shows that the financial barriers to dental care are much higher than for medical care in most countries. The data shows the United Kingdom has amongst the lowest financial barriers for both dental and medical care.
Dr. Vujicic than goes on to discuss some reasons as to why this is the case. Of course, the way healthcare and dental care is financed in different countries is brought up. He mentions how in Canada medical coverage is universal and paid for by a single-payer system; however, dental care is not included and is financed through private or employer covered dental insurance. The author mentions how in the Netherlands and Switzerland medical care is provided through private insurance but that the marketplace is tightly regulated.
The author then goes on to discuss another study looking at 18 countries. He states
“…a large study of 18 OECD countries showed that the United States has the lowest rate of dental care use among low-income adults and one of the lowest rates for high-income adults.”
The author feels more research and analysis is needed to better explore dental care financing and delivery amongst different countries. It certainly is troubling that this study shows that dental care is out of financial reach for over 30% of all in the United States.
It is clear that the U.S. is in need of a single-payer health care system such as that argued for by the Physicians for a National Health Program http://www.pnhp.org/.