In Knickman and Kovner (eds.) 2015. Health Care Delivery in the United States,
Windows can sometimes be mirrors. A look at health systems abroad can enable us to develop a better understanding of our health system in the United States. An international perspective suggests that the United States has the most expensive health care system in the world, but unlike other wealthy countries, we fail to provide universal health insurance coverage and experience large inequities in access to primary and specialty care. Health care costs are often a source of financial strain, even bankruptcy, for people with serious illness (Hacker, 2006), and Americans suffer from high rates of mortality that could have been avoided with timely and appropriate access to a range of effective health care services (Nolte & McKee, 2012). There is also evidence that the U.S. health care system squanders resources and fails to address many of its population’s health care needs. Not surprisingly, public opinion polls regularly find that medical professionals and the public are dissatisfied with the system and believe major change is necessary (Blendon, Benson, & Brulé, 2012).