What is Health Insurance and the Different Health Insurance Systems around the World

Health Insurance around the World

All of us would have heard the term Health Insurance in some form or the other and most of us would have taken health insurance policies to protect ourselves and our families from the prohibitive costs of healthcare. However, health insurance is a term that is actualized in practice differently in different countries around the world.

In the United States, the State provides for mandatory health insurance to those aged above 60 in the form of Medicaid and Medicare, in other countries around the world, there are different flavors of the way in which health insurance is actualized.

For instance, in Asian countries, despite the state promising free healthcare in government run hospitals, many individuals especially those with the means to pay choose private hospitals for treatment, as they do not trust the government run hospitals to provide quality care.

Even in the US, it is common for individuals below 60 to take health insurance as the healthcare costs are expensive resulting in too much money spent on the same. The situation in Europe is different as in many European countries; it is common for the state to provide quality and affordable care to their citizens without charging them too much.

The Role of the State in Providing Health Insurance

The discussion in the previous paragraph highlights the role of the state in ensuring quality healthcare. The reason why we dwelt on the role of the state is that under the social contract between the state and the individual and between individuals, there are certain responsibilities that each player has towards the other. This includes the provision of education and healthcare to the citizens.

However, because of a number of reasons, in most countries in the world, healthcare is usually not provided by the state. Even in those countries where the facilities exist, they are only in name and on paper meaning that citizens resort to availing private healthcare often paying through their nose. Indeed, if this proves anything that is the fact that it would be better for the individuals to take health insurance that covers them and their families to not incur heavy expenditure on treatment.

Without criticizing the state in most developing countries for their failure to provide healthcare, the point needs to be made that at least the state in these countries can provide free treatment to the poor and the needy in the private hospitals by subsidizing their treatment costs. This is being done in some states in India where the state has finally recognized its limitations and hence, partnering with the private sector so that the poor and the needy do not suffer.

The Private Health Insurance System

Turning to the health insurance offered by private players, it has become the norm in the West for each individual to take a health insurance policy that covers them and their families. The passage of the Health Care Reform Act or Obamacare as it is known in the United States was meant to ease the process of taking health insurance for the citizens and making the employers pay a higher percentage to cover their employees.

Even for those who are unemployed, Obamacare was supposed to cover them under health insurance in one way or the other.

The point here is that health is the key to happiness and productivity and hence, the state cannot abdicate its responsibility in ensuring quality healthcare at affordable rates.

Noted economists like Amartya Sen have pointed out that the success of countries depends on human capital and this human capital is formed when the state guarantees excellent education and healthcare to all its citizens so that they are productive and perform well.

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