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The United States, long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom among large industrial nations, has experienced a remarkable plunge in economic freedom during the past decade. From 1980 to 2000, the US was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore. The ranking of the US has fallen precipitously; from second in 2000 to eighth in 2005 and 19th in 2010. By 2009, the United States had fallen behind Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Chile, and Mauritius, countries that chose not to follow the path of massive growth in government financed by borrowing that is now the most prominent characteristic of US fiscal policy. By 2010, the United States had also fallen behind Finland and Denmark, two European welfare states. Moreover, it now trails Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Taiwan, and Qatar. The Fraser Institute’s massive volume on the Economic Freedom Of The World - based on the following five factors: Size of Government, Legal System & Property Rights, Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, and Regulation - covers 42 variables with the goal of quantifying the key ingredients of economic freedom.

Hong Kong Healthcare vs. American Healthcare

Hong Kong Healthcare vs. American Healthcare

Earlier this week I caught the flu as a result of being exposed to the typhoon and from heavy use of air conditioners.  The symptoms of the flu were different from the typical flu because although I didn’t get the fever, I was having a bad case of an infected throat, coughing, stuffy nose, and a stomach virus.  The stomach virus didn’t come out until after I had a traditional Chinese dinner at the grim and gritty part of Kowloon.

When the symptoms started appearing, I was hesitant to go to a nearby clinic since I was uninsured.  Instead I went to purchase a bottle of Methodex cough syrup and drank hot water in the hopes this would stop the cough.  After 2 days, I started getting feverish and decided to go to the local clinic after insistence from my relative.  I honestly did not want to go for fear of being price gouged for just a few minutes of meeting with the doctor and for the fear of having to pay a great deal for the prescription medicines.

When I went to see the doctor at the clinic, he was able to diagnose my flu and proceeded to give me a list of medication to fight it.  The final bill for the visit was at $240HKD, which is roughly $31USD, and the fee included the prescription medicine.  If I had local health insurance in HK, the entire doctor’s fee would be fully covered.  It was shocking that I only had to pay around $31 just for a doctor’s visit and prescription medication despite being uninsured.  If this was America, I would have to pay around $20 just for the co-pay and then additional funds to get the prescription medicine.    Otherwise, I would be paying somewhere close to the $100s if I was uninsured.

One more thing to note is that in Hong Kong, the doctors and pharmacists only provide the amount of medication prescribed by the doctor.  For example, if the doctor only prescribed 3 days’ worth of medicine, the pharmacist would only provide 3 days’ worth of medication with the assumption the patient would use all of it within that period of time.  This is not only a way to prevent medication from being wasted but a great way to control costs of prescription medication.  In America, doctors would simply prescribe the medicine and the pharmacist would provide you with the entire package with the assumption the patient would simply stopped using it when all symptoms disappear.  The problem with this approach is that the patient is buying unnecessary amounts of medicine and is taking on extra costs instead of just getting exactly what he or she needs per the doctor’s prescription.

Later that week, I started getting abdominal pains and had to go to the hospital to see a doctor.  When I arrived, the doctor took the time to diagnose me after waiting for at least an hour, then got the nurse to inject me with anti-viral medication and gave me prescribed medication to fight the stomach virus and pains.  At the end of the hospital visit, my bill came out to $580HKD or $$75 for the doctor’s consultation, anti-viral injection and prescription medicine.  Also, if I was insured, the majority of this fee would be covered by the health provider with no co-pay.  However, if this happened in America, I would be stuck with at least $580USD in doctor’s fees and get hounded by the hospital to pay off the fees as soon as possible.  Also, keep in mind that I went to a private hospital and I learned that the government hospitals charge no more than $50HKD for treatment despite longer wait times.

So I really am confused by Americans who keep claiming that US healthcare is the “best in the world”, when it simply isn’t true.  Whether the healthcare system is managed by the government, such as in Canada or France; or it has a two-tier system with a variety of options such as Hong Kong, these arrangement seem to be far more efficient than what we currently have in America.  Despite all the sensationalised nonsense from American media about the extremes of state-controlled healthcare or fully private healthcare, people in those places are overall content with their system compared to those in the USA. 

I don’t think forcing American taxpayers to pay more taxes for being uninsured and making it mandatory to purchase healthcare is the best option.  It’s really clear that US healthcare is broken with their medical fees and prescription fees that are nowhere near the actual market value of these goods and services.  Most of all, it is simply arrogant to believe that Americans do not  need to learn how the world implements their healthcare system as a means to actually improving American healthcare on the basis of the big lie that “America is the greatest [insert noun here] in the world”. 

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