Sick Around the World

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What did you find interesting in T.R. Reid's travels to these five countries? Are there lessons we can learn from them that would help us fix America's health care system?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I loved the show!! I have always believed that no one should have to pay for healthcare. My question is "Don't we already pay enough taxes to implement a universal health care system?" I think a large amount of our tax money is wasted on things that don't really matter. Shouldn't the health of our people matter most to us.

It seems insane to believe that with the government taking in billions of dollars in taxes every year we can't figure out a way to pay for a $15,000 medical bill when someone needs it. There are many ways our government could cut spending to be able to spend more on health care. One example would be the army and the wars that we fight. Of the countries that were covered in the show, how many of them spend as much as we do to fight a war that isn't even worth fighting anymore? Just some things to think about. Bottom line is that it is a basic human right to be healthy and to receive help when you are not.

Heidi Winters
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Dear FRONTLINE,

An excellent show. There are many facets of the healthcare system that a 1 hour show can not begin to cover. During the show, there was mention of a book on this subject by T.R. Reid. When is it due to be published, I am very interested in reading it.

Roger Pennington
Forest Grove, Oregon

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

T.R. Reid's book, titled The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, is scheduled to be published by Penguin Press in August 2009. Click here to read a Q&A with T.R. Reid.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I noticed 4 of the 5 countries you reported on are islands and all have very restrtrictive immigration laws. Do you think that the U.S. illegal immigration number, estimated between 7 and 20 million, would make such a socialized system impossible in the U.S. as most illegals make their income under the table and do not pay taxes, including socialized medicine taxes? How do these other countries deal with illegal aliens needing healthcare?

Hammond, Indiana

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

T.R. Reid responds regarding whether illegal immigrants receive health care in the countries featured in this report:

Several of the countries we went to are concerned about illegal immigration and are looking for ways to control it. But that concern doesn't touch the health care system. They provide care for everybody in the country, regardless of status. The general attitude seems to be: "If you're in our country, we'll treat you if you're sick -- even though the police may be determined to deport you."

Dear FRONTLINE,

The one line of questioning that Mr. Reid did not include was how much each of the doctors in each country pay for malpractice insurance and how often the doctors are subjected to frivolous lawsuits. Certainly, the other countries likely have a more advanced state of tort reform than the United States. Limiting lawsuits would likely reduce the costs incurred in the US healthcare system. Please consider all of the factors that influence the costs of healthcare in the United States.

Thomas Graham
Princeton, NJ

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Click here to read more about how medicine is practiced in these other countries -- including how malpractice is handled.

Dear FRONTLINE,

No matter what your opinion of this episode may be we can all agree on one thing: we are all one major health issue away from financial ruin in the US. If you have a good job with good benefits you can be on long term disabilty for only so long. When your company parts ways with you your wonderful coverages goes with it. Just one of many examples.

Philadelphia, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great show that left many more questions. It comes down to whether our culture can tolerate a change in how medical care is delivered in our nation. Right now most aspects of our medical care is a for-profit business model. I liked the aspects of several countries where the competition (of insurance companies) centered on service rather than profit; but not sure how that would work in our nation.

Tucson, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing this profoundly eye-opening documentary. For the first time in a long time, I find myself hopeful. Your show brought to light the many faces of success as it relates to universal healthcare coverage. I believe that healthcare should be a basic human right and not a privilege granted to the affluent only. I am inspired by what these other countries have attempted to do, and I am sickened that my country lags so far behind in these matters. I shudder to think of the vast numbers of Americans who have died because they couldn't afford healthcare when they became ill. In an industrialized society such as ours, that should never happen! It's appalling, inexcusable, and shameful! After watching your show, I actually can see the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel". Thank you for that glimmer of hope, Mr. Reid and Frontline producers.

Ann-Marie Bagley
Wareham, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing this program again and thank you Mr. Reid for undertaking such a program. While this was obviously a huge target for a one hour show, it addressed many of the concerns (legitimate and not) of the U.S. public and commentators, including cost, bankruptcy, and waiting lists. As a medical student, I was disappointed with the lack of discussion of costs of education in all of the systems, how salaries are related to number of hours worked, and malpractice rates. Also from that perspective, I must add my opinion that doctors in the U.S. do not choose the career based upon money. If one is concerned with the ability of the field of medicine to attract the best and brightest if salaries are reduced in a new system then I would challenge their perception of "best and brightest" and whether they make the best physicians anyway.

Adam Greenlee
Pittsburgh, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed the program very much. Mr. Reid was just about falling all over himself with a smile as wide as the Atlantic Ocean during the whole piece but failed to follow through on the financial issues failing hospitals etc. in these countries. A more thorough piece would have addressed it because at some point, someone will have to pay.

Tanya Middleford
Napa, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for sharing this important information. I now understand the meaning behind "requiring citizens to buy health insurance." These moneys function like a tax, channeled to a singular intent.

As a self-employed individual, I pay one quarter of my income for health insurance with a very high deductible. The high cost is due solely to my age and ever-rising medical costs. This is both absurd and unsustainable. Thank goodness I've had good health. Medical bankruptcy is my number one fear.

Waukesha, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

What an excellent show! It discussed the most important aspects of other countries' health systems in a very simple, straightforward way. I wish every Senator and every member of Congress would watch this. Maybe they would be less apt to craft a bill that is a huge give-away to the insurance companies and big Pharma.

Although we need to do something about our for-profit "sick-care" system (it is NOT a health system), I'd rather they pass nothing than a bill that gives the insurnace companies 50 million new customers with no real reform or cost controls. I'm in sales, and it sure would be easy for me if the government mandated that everyone buy my product, and then let me charge whatever I want!

Keep up the great work!

Elkridge, MD

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program on healthcare hits the nail on the head. We often try to explain that 'socialised medicine' can also mean 'private medicine' and it be better. Your program has finally proven it. By the way; the same mechanisms exist in education in many countries where school are not run by government but compete for quality not for profits.

Thank you so much for presenting this healthcare in the world overview.

Bart Louwagie
holmes, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great Program. I just saw it this week. Besides giving a lot of on site information it raised questions. A follow up program is definitely in order. That would give more time for reemphasizing the information given as well as presenting additional information.

The United States is unlike the countries portrayed as we have many different cultures and ideas. We also have two major attitudes; one for government involvement and the other against government involvement. They are so strong that compromise is very difficult. In addition the media is too controlled and restricted to present such detailed stories and discussions.Your program is a breath of fresh air compared to all the screeming that goes on in other TV/radio stations over serious issues. Keep up the great job.

John Wright
Boynton Beach, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a physician presently undergoing subspecialty training in oncology. I found the program informative and encouraging. It seems there is much we could learn from other countries.

Nevertheless, I am curious if the physician supply meets demand in the countries featured. Do German medical schools still attract some of the best and brightest to the profession? Presently the US must import doctors from other countries to meet our demand. These physicians are attracted to the US because the benefits of practicing here outweigh those of practicing in other countries. If we reduced doctor salaries to 80K (as in Germany) we would no longer be able to supplement our physician supply nor attract Americans students to the profession - most US medical graduates are saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

Jared Manning
Salt Lake City, UT

Dear FRONTLINE,

I lived in Japan for 4 years (and I must add, I am not impressed by T.R. Reid's Japanese ability). The hospitals have appalling sanitary conditions as compared to hospitals in the U.S.

Reid very conspicuously did not explore the expense associated with medical malpractice in the U.S. as compared to these other countries. Japanese doctors do not have to deal with the frivolous lawsuits that we have in the U.S. This results in a medical system overburdened by the costs of defensive medicine, and malpractice insurance.

David Jones
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

A very dissapointing Frontline as also emphasized by others responding. The editorial staff has turned from the typical objective information in favor of unsubstantiated opinion in this case for nationalized healtcare. The piece should be listed as opinion and not Frontline journalism. Please refrain from such entertainment pieces in the future.

Christopher Klein
Rochester , MN

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posted april 15, 2008

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