Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Healthcare- Korea gets quite a bang for its buck

Via Kottke, I found a National Geographic graphic comparing the cost of health care vs the average lifespan for several countries.  As has been in the international news lately, Americans pay so much that they don't fit on the scale, yet have a below average life expectancy.  My summary of how the authors describe the American system is comparing it to auto repair technicians.  The technicians (and health care workers) are paid for piece-work so they recommend medical services that are optional or cosmetic rather than life-span enhancing.

Even more remarkable is how South Korea's health system appears.  Americans pay, on average over $7000 per year for a life expectancy of 78 years, Canadians pay almost $4000 for 81 years, yet South Koreans pay less than $1700 per person for 79 years life expectancy. (click to enlarge)


This is great, but recent problems that have been described in the English K-blogosphere show a weakness in the Korean system.

John Yost broke his back -and I don't blame him, his actions were done to help others- by engaging in extreme sports.  He needs $50,000 to pay for his surgery.

Matt Robinson needed surgery to save his leg.  Expensive surgery.  Shamefully, I have not followed up on his predicament and can only hope he is okay now.

Bill Kapoun and Nerine Viljoen died after sustaining serious injuries here.  I am not certain that money would have saved their lives or sped up surgery and I don't want to suggest that doctors were waiting for money before performing life-saving surgery.  So far as I know the Korean medical system offered the best care possible.  Still, if Kapoun or Viljoen had survived, they would have been under crushing debt.

Despite what Michael Moore said in Sicko (I haven't seen it but have heard clips), Canadian health care isn't in great shape; it is merely limping along.  However, if I needed expensive surgery, I would get it and not suffer from horrible debt afterward.

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