Private health insurance plays a significant role in some countries, both rich and poor, and a nonexistent one in others. Many developing countries, with no discrimination to a specific region in the world, have no private health insurance infrastructure in place, and thus, their people struggle with financing medical care that is not directly provided for by the public sector. Medical care becomes something that is overwhelmingly dreaded and avoided at all costs, which delays timely and essential care. Moreover, there becomes a growing disparity between these countries and those with advanced medical technology and provision. The United States is the oft-cited example of a country that is heavily reliant on private health insurance to finance health expenditures. Whether through employment-based insurance plans or other private insurers, the United States’ private market gives her people the option to voluntarily subscribe to a health insurance system plan that is most suitable to their health needs. The liberty associated with this familiar system does not come without a cost, however, as thousands of dollars are spent yearly per person on private health insurance. Many people in the world do not even come close to making this much.
Despite the exorbitant premiums of health insurance plans in this country and much of the middle class’ struggle in financing health care, it seems unlikely the costs will be lowered to a reasonable number anytime soon. In fact, it is possible that huge increases will be seen. The Anthem Blue Cross of California recently announced a 39 percent increase in the cost of its premiums. I’m sure this news brought a cloud over an otherwise sunny day at The Golden State. Private health insurance is a for-profit industry, which more or less means “how to make the most money”. In other words, a company that is out to make money will do everything in its power to do just that. Our system became the most expensive, but not the necessarily the best, through the reliance on the private sector, and now it’s doing its best to lower costs and reach out to those who can’t afford it by completely reforming the system (and making sure those in Congress have something to do). The government is now effectively trying to make the provision of health a comprehensively public system but whether that’s possible is yet to be seen. Now that developing countries have a model for a system that will eventually fail by virtue of its cost, and it hardly makes sense for them to make the same mistake.
It’s unreasonable to forego mention of the benefits of a health care system with some basis in the private sector. After all, health care resources are severely limited in developing countries, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the comprehensiveness of publicly funded health care. Thus, if health care is not available through public means, people will be forced to pay out of pocket. This is not feasible in many circumstances but neither are the premiums they will be forced to pay in a private plan, even if they are employed and especially if costs escalate at the rate that they have in the United States. In addition, a private market will require strict government regulation to avoid excessive profiteering without the well-being of its country in mind. This is the only way the growth of private health insurance can function. The government and the industry must ensure that private health insurance is a private industry for the public good. It’s a long road for developing countries, one in which I can glimpse a speckle of hope, but they must not let the mistakes of our past lead them astray.