Sick Around the World

join the discussion

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 found the program to be an updated version of Micheal Moore's movie, 'Sicko'. And I found it to be amazing. How many ways do we have to bring the facts to the American people to get them to realize that our system is outdated and will eventually ruin us? I wish this program was available for free download, because I would make copies so I could send them to my Republican Senators and Congressman, and to friends and family. This would be an effort for them to contact their representatives, to push for a change in our system.I watched Sicko again a couple nights ago, and was again with head in hand wondering why people can't see the writing on the wall. Health care costs are further separating the haves and the have-nots. And things will get much worse before they get better--if we can't make a change now.My thanks to T.R. Reid and the crew for going through the effort to put this show together. I learned much that I didn't know, and it reinforces my belief in the need for change. I have horror stories I could tell...

Lake Havasu City, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Tonight's episode was eye-opening and utterly ingenious. This proves without a doubt that universal healthcare can be done effectively and economically. I was most impressed with the process that Taiwan took in putting together its health-care system.

This episode also unequivocally proves to me that our lawmakers and politicans are purposely or ignorantly misleading and making fools of us, in their opposition against universal public-option healthcare.

Jamal Barnes
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

As I was watching your special tonight, I had tears in my eyes wondering why other countries truly care about their citizens and forbid profiteering off drugs and medical care. What corruption has been born in this nation where the few delight in reaping enormous financial benefits off the destruction and bankruptcy of the many? As I struggle to pay my mounting health insurance premium that grows horrifically every year now that I am over 50, I can not afford to go to any doctor for anything because of my high deductible. Why has this been allowed to happen to so many? I wish that every American could have seen this program and hope that you re-run it many times.

L Bett
Highland Park, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Mr. Reid's piece was of course vastly superior to Michael Moore's amateur universal health care pitch, but a bit reminiscent of a TV commercial touting the good points of a product while skirting the negatives. Higher taxation in the subject countries was mentioned, but no numbers given. Incomes of healthcare workers was mentioned as being significantly lower than in the USA, so how could a USA health worker justify the huge cost of education if their incomes were reduced? One doctor (in Germany?) mentioned that their education was free, but no followup given. Malpractice insurance was quoted as $1400 per annum with another doctor, and again, no further discussion. Here were examples of two major factors on healthcare costs in the USA, but no discussion in Mr. Reids article or in the persuasive efforts of universal healthcare protaganists. Perhaps not coincidentally, academia and the tort industry are in alignment with, and financially support almost exclusively the political left in the USA. Should it be so mysterious that many are skeptical?

william Allemann
Saint Louis, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have lived in eight foreign countries, mainly in Europe and have experienced their best and worst. I noticed that at no point in Reid's presentation did he mention, let alone discuss if patients in his five countries could freely choose their doctor and if they would see the same doctor on follow-up appointments. My experience was generally no. This was certainly true in Finland with its "Health Centers", i.e., clinics where one had about the same personal attention and staff continuity as taking one's car in for repairs.

Grosse pointe, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Tonight's program was informative, yet we were not told how insurance companies within these foreign health care systems are able to survive without a profit. Are they compensated with government subsidies? Does the populace in these countries pay high taxes to fund universal health care?

I find appalling the reality that we are faced with in the U.S., namely the political wrangling in Washington over legislating a critically needed change in how we administer health care. What's really needed is a complete change in our sense of values. The profit motive is too heavily inculcated within the American psyche. For this reason, we have an ongoing political struggle that prevents us from achieving real change. It is unconscionable that health care coverage is not available for everyone in the U.S. or that Americans must go broke in trying to pay for health care.

Everyone should receive health care coverage, including the young who are presumably the healthiest citizens. This must be made mandatory because the public good is involved. The larger the insurance pool in a competitive environment, the more likely insurance costs would be lowered. In addition, Medicare should be expanded to include the poor, irrespective of their age.

If the political impasse in Washington over health care reform cannot be resolved, then a committee must be formed for the purpose of gathering the facts, and presenting them accordingly to the American people to decide upon---in short a national referendum would be implemented. This issue is too critical for its resolution to be swallowed up by Washington politics.

Frederick Gurzeler
Mamaroneck, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I really enjoyed Sick around the world. I have lived half my life under the British National Health System of care and half under the American private system of health care. I can see the major problems in the USA. As the program pointed out no person should become bankrupt paying hospital bills. No one should die because they can't pay for health care. A civilized nation takes care of it's people. That is not a socialistic point of view it's a "moral" one. My only complaint with the program was that it was never pointed out that there in nothing to stop you having private coverage in the UK if you want to. Yes, private health coverage and socialized coverage at the same time. Imagine that.

Brandon, Mississippi

Dear FRONTLINE,

Saw your program and forum. Some numbers do not add up. In the program it is mentioned that the doctors in Germany pay about 10% of malpractice insurance compare to those in the US. The average doctor earning of doctors in the US is about twice as much as the Germans. Your program implies that the US doctors the on average earns less the the Germans after the malpractice insurance expenses. However, in you malpractice insurance information page, you stated that the doctors malpractice insurance cost is only 1% of the total expenses. This number now really does not add up. If your numbers are correct, then the US doctors must at least earn 10 times as much as the Germans.

Any rate, you really need to compare the payout of malpractice law suit in the US with the other countries. In other countries, it is seldom to pay more than a million in a suit, but in US, one mistakes may cost 30 millions.Another point you made is that in other countries, hospitals pays malpractice insurance for the doctors to cut down the premium. However, a unique situation in US is that there are class action law suits and punitive damages paid by corporations. That's why doctors need to insure themselves.

No matter what, tort reform must be a part of the consideration if anyone objectively think about cutting health care expenses.

GC CHENG
Stamford, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

Our country's leaders are an absolute embarrassment as they have allowed an unregulated health market (not system) to deprive the less fortunate out of a basic human right: healthcare!

Many ignorant people (who vote for these legislators) believe our current healthcare market protects our "freedom" from socialized medicine. By doing so, we the people have accepted to forego a basic human right. I am so embarrassed for our country, especially because others have gotten it right.

Victor Parada
Miami, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for re-telecasting "Sick Around The World." Your original 2008 telecast provided a critical look and comparison with health-care systems in several countries. Re-telecasting this outstanding documentary now, at this time in early Fall 2009, adds impetus, enhances education, and encourages positive change during this time of confusion, deception and real concern among many Americans, as we hopefully move toward an improved and much-better system of providing health-care to everyone, while minimizing costs and controlling processes. You would certainly not be at fault if you telecast "Sick Around The World" again. Everyone should see it; especially those vested with the responsibility for bringing these changes about. Thank you, again FRONTLINE. Your good works continue!

Chauncey Black
Kansas City, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am 16 years old and I was captivated by your program. It was amazing and shed a lot of light on the health care situation. By going around the world you showed improvements that have already been implemented that could be made in America. It was very clear and understandable. I recommend it to everyone who wants to make an informed decision on this topic.

Eyosias Samson
Leander, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your presentation was great... but you, as a journalistic reporter were very much light-weight on the issue of malpractice. You never asked the question at each of the stops "how does malpractice work?... can you sue a docter or hospital if they screw up?" Now I believe the US malpractice attornies control too much of the democratic vote in Congress and thus prevent real tort reform in the US. But you never bring up that point with your foreign interviewees. It's a huge disparity between US and other countries, and a huge cost and factor in the US health care costs.

Joel O'Bryan
Worcester, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found this program to be very informative. However, I noticed that mental health care was mentioned only in passing one or two times. How do these five countries compare to the U.S. for mental health care coverage and treatment? Here in the U.S., there is no federal guarantee that mental health care be treated the same as physical health care (parity).

So, while I happen to have an excellent health care plan by physical health standards, I find myself facing the likely possibility that I will run out of benefits for mental health treatment half-way through this calendar year. If that comes to pass, my mental health care costs will exceed $13,000 for 2008. Would this situation occur in any of the five countries you examined? How does the stigma of mental illness affect how it is treated in those countries?

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

I would have like to hear from some capitalist economists with real solutions. I always like to hear both sides and feel I am probably watching a propaganda piece if I don't hear both sides.

A simple capitalist approach would be to require everyone to buy insurance with a minimum deductible of $2,000 to $5,000. Then, require all health care providers to post their prices for all services outside of their office and on a centralized web site. Next, expand the health savings account and give companies tax incentive to pay into those accounts. Finally, get rid of some of the doctor liability and encourage some caveat emptor. These small changes would encourage a true capitalist system, where people are actually shopping around. That doesn't happen now.

Arvada, Co

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a college student in Taiwan and I am applying for the medical school in Taiwan. I think I can offer some viewpoints of the national health insurance (NHI) system in Taiwan .

As a Citizen of Taiwan, I am satisfied with our NHI program. We can go to a family doctor anytime when we are sick, without a reservation. And if we think we should direct go to a specialist, we can do it as well; we just have to pay the extra co-pay, about 10 USD. The NHI also covers the dentist and Chinese medicine, without any waiting time.

The government run insurance covers everyone and it is free for the poor. (The government pays the insurance fee.) And in this March, because we have a presidential election, the ruling party (DPP) pays for the insurance bill to relieve the near poor those who owe the government. But actually, there is huge deficit in the NIH program.

On the other aspect, the medical staff is not well paid in Taiwan . The salary of a doctor is OK, but the nurses and the pharmacists get a pretty low pay. A nurse is only paid about 1,200 USD and a pharmacist is paid 1,900USD every month. They should be paid more when concerning about their heavy loading of work. Some of my friends are preparing the test for RN or USMLE. They want to work in the states in the future.

Jason Hsu
Taipei, Taiwan

more


home + introduction + watch online + five countries + interviews + analysis + join the discussion + q & a with t.r. reid
live chat with correspondent t.r. reid + teacher's guide + readings & links + site map + dvd + transcript + press reaction
credits + privacy policy + journalistic guidelines + FRONTLINE series home + wgbh + pbs

posted april 15, 2008

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
background photograph © image100/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation