If you live in Colorado, there’s a good chance that your insurance premiums have been steadily rising for the last several years. It isn’t spare change either, with an average increase of 27% this year alone. Of course, this latest hit to our personal finances has set off yet another round of recriminations from politicians on both sides of the aisle seeking to extract a political advantage from an issue that should be above politics: the life or death of the citizenry.
Predictably, the two sides of the argument haven’t changed. One side decries any government intervention in our healthcare system as damaging to the free market system, while the other side insists that the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) didn’t go far enough. To hear the two arguments, one might assume that there are only two ways to approach national healthcare and that we must pick between them. That’s not so.
A National Problem
Throughout the often contentious health care debate, two things have become clear to many Coloradans. First, that the healthcare system in the U.S. was broken when the ACA passed, and second, that it’s still broken today. Aside from the dramatically rising premiums here in Colorado, residents also face health care costs that run an average of 17% more when compared to other states.
This isn’t likely to get any better any time soon, as healthcare costs are rising every year across the nation (although at a slower annual rate after the ACA passed). We are told that our healthcare system is the envy of the world, yet we spend 17.9% of national GDP on healthcare to rank last among other high-income nations in terms of outcomes. Clearly, we cannot continue this way for much longer.
The Centrist Solution
If you looked at the list of high-income nations that had better health outcomes than we do, you may have noticed that it is topped by the United Kingdom, which has the largest single-payer healthcare system in the world. Australia, though, comes in a close second, and that’s where American policymakers should be looking for solutions.
The system in Australia is a hybrid of public and private health services that covers everyone in the country. It is similar to the Medicare-for-all proposals that have circulated here in America of late, but with a few key differences. Although all Australians are covered by the government-run system, many carry supplemental private coverage. They can compare health funds to find ones that supply additional benefits that they desire, like access to private hospitals or shorter appointment wait times. Drug costs are regulated, and consumers still have plenty of choice within the system. Best of all, they’re only spending 9.4% of their GDP on healthcare, which is roughly half of what we spend here.
If we’re going to fix America’s broken healthcare system, both sides of the political spectrum need to come together. Coloradans can’t wait much longer for a solution as costs continue to rise and more of us are priced out of the healthcare market. It’s clear that solutions are available and that they could work here. To get it done, we all need to call on our elected representatives to tell them to stop looking to the left and right for answers and to instead start looking down under to find inspiration.