Jason Shafrin has written a fascinating article about the national health insurance (NHI) system in Taiwan. He summarizes a list of facts about how the system works and how much it costs, starting with the percentage of GDP that is spent on health care in Taiwan. It increased following the implementation of the NHI 14 years ago, but only to 6.1% of GDP. When compared with what we spend here in the US (roughly 16% of GDP, with some estimates even higher), it sure does seem like a bargain. Premiums for the NHI policy are set at 4.55% of wages – again, a bargain compared with the 8% defined in the current senate bill and 12% in the House bill. And nearly everybody in Taiwan pays their premiums on time.
There are half as many nurses as a percentage of the population in Taiwan compared with the US, and cancer screening tests are not administered as frequently as they are here. And yet the people of Taiwan have a life expectancy that trails ours by only about eight weeks.
Data like this ought to do a good job of convincing people that we really don’t need a lot of the health care services that are currently viewed as essential. 16% of our GDP is spent on health care, tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance and have to rely on free clinics and crowded emergency rooms for care, more than half of all bankruptcies in this country stem from medical problems (and most of those people had health insurance and ended up bankrupt anyway)… all of this, and our life expectancy is only a few weeks longer than that of people in Taiwan.
Jason’s article was published in the Cavalcade of Risk last week.