COVID-19 & Insurance: What We Can Learn from Health Systems Around the World

No health care system comes without its range of flaws. The COVID-19 pandemic has put to test health care systems around the world and has left no more room for doubt: As the virus spreads and numbers continue to rise globally, it’s time we put a magnifying glass over our health care system and what we can do to improve it. 

Although heavily relying on private insurance firms, the United States’ health insurance system is still the largest in the world. In comparison, many developed countries that have a much smaller system have successfully managed to achieve widespread healthcare and coverage far more than we have. 

To put into perspective the stark difference, we’ve listed four examples of exceptional health insurance from our global peers.

Taiwan

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance provides coverage for nearly all citizens and residents. Foreigners residing in the country for more than six months are also provided health insurance. Coverage includes primary care, hospital services, prescription drugs, dental work, and mental health care. When COVID-19 struck the East Asian country, the Taiwanese government quickly responded by quickly implementing its epidemic response plan which was established during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Moreover, Taiwan also conducts coronavirus tests for free. This helped the country not only keep its number of cases low but also provided its citizens and residents with a sense of stability during the global crisis.

South Korea

Nearly everyone in South Korea is covered by the government provided National Health Insurance program. With benefits including emergency coverage, pharmaceuticals, and dental care – citizens are able to access healthcare needs without worrying about hefty bills. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea developed a diagnostic test and tested millions for free. The government was also quick to designate hospitals for COVID positive patients as well as isolated hospitals for those seeking non-COVID treatment. The nation was not only quick to effectively flatten the curve, but also managed to keep its total deaths below 300.

Netherlands

Although the Dutch system requires its citizens to purchase health insurance from private providers, the government covers much of the costs when it comes to health care. Financed through taxation, most funding comes from insurance premiums which are set by ensurers at the same price for everyone regardless of age or health status. How the Dutch approached COVID-19 however, was far more relaxed compared to other countries on this list. With no hard lockdown, limited testing, as well as open borders – the country was still able to see a decrease in the number of cases as well as keep its death rate relatively low. The Dutch essentially relied on the goodness of their citizens to follow safety precautions and also implemented “intelligent lockdown” which proved to be successful.

Australia

The Australian health care system offers both a mix of public and private insurance. Medicare, which is the country’s universal public health insurance program, is fully funded by the government and is relatively affordable. The government also encourages the purchase of private insurance which offers coverage for general care, dental services, and ambulance charges. Although once ranked amongst the highest countries for COVID-19 cases, Australia has not been hit as hard by the pandemic. With just slightly over 100 deaths, the country has managed to successfully implement its healthcare system during the pandemic. Australia also has one of the highest rates of testing per capita to ensure the monitoring and treatment of COVID-19 cases.

What Can We Learn?

So what exactly can the United States learn from this pandemic? One thing is the importance of having instilled an excellent health care system. We can already see the massive consequences of a sudden outbreak with cases surging in at over two million and the number of deaths in the hundreds of thousands. Treating health care as a universal right and having a solid response plan is vital to ensure everyone is rightfully protected during unprecedented times. 

US citizens should have the ability to reap widespread healthcare benefits and receive complete coverage. Without transforming the health care system as we know it – private insurance firms will continue to provide the healthcare benefits our citizens deserve.