How does health care in America differ from that of other countries?

BY Murrey Jacobson  January 17, 2014 at 6:19 PM EST


George Halvorson, former CEO and chairman of Kaiser Permanente, spoke with Judy Woodruff about his new book, “Don’t Let Health Care Bankrupt America.”

George Halvorson has seen a lot of what works — and what doesn’t — throughout his career in the American health care system. Most notably, he’s been the CEO and chairman of Kaiser Permanente, the huge not-for-profit insurance plan that includes its own hospitals and clinics, for more than a decade. Throughout his tenure at Kaiser Permanente, which just ended in December, Halvorson talked bluntly about the deficiencies of the U.S. model, particularly with its costs, its “perverse incentives” for providers and whether those incentives lead to bad choices — and sometimes worse outcomes — for patients.

Halvorson is known for trying to put into practice what Kaiser and its leadership preach: He put an emphasis on prevention (with a special focus on the epidemics of obesity and diabetes), coordinated care for some 9 million consumers, electronic medical records, and limiting patients to seeing doctors and specialists only within the Kaiser network HMO plan (which includes 37 hospitals and 17,000 doctors in more than half a dozen states). It’s the largest plan in California with 40 percent of the employer market and it’s earned revenues of $50 billion a year.

In many ways, Kaiser has been seen as a pioneer in the battle over health reform — and a model for some of those very reasons. But Kaiser has also been the subject of serious criticism with some who have been worried about their limits of choice (including for specialists) and, more recently, for the costs of its premiums. And it, too, has not been able to hold its overall costs down as low as executives had hoped.

Halvorson’s new book “Don’t Let Health Care Bankrupt America” examines the health system and tries to offer solutions based on what’s he’s seen over the years. In this extra online conversation with Judy Woodruff, Halvorson discusses some of the big differences he sees between the U.S. and other countries around the world. Halvorson also wrote about this topic in his book with sections like “We Pay Primary Care Doctors Half as Much Money” and “We Have the Highest Hospital Costs in the World.” You can watch that conversation here.