Originally published September 30 2009
Read this, Senators: Taiwan's universal health care system provides full coverage for $21 a month - why can't we?
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
(NaturalNews) When people ask why I oppose Obama's health care reform proposals, I point out what a consumer (and employer) rip-off the current system of pharmaceutical medicine really is. Americans are victims in a monopoly medical scam that's enforced by the FDA and FTC with lots of propaganda support from the mainstream media and Big Pharma. This fraudulent monopoly system causes Americans to pay the highest prices in the world for pharmaceuticals and health care, even while receiving remarkably poor results in their own health status.
Sadly, even Obama's health reform plan does little to change this situation: It still traps Americans in a system of overpriced, over-hyped and aggressively marketed pharmaceuticals that harm far more people than they help.
The average American family is right now paying over $1,000 a month for insurance coverage. It's bankrupting families and driving the American people into an economic wasteland. Meanwhile, other nations are providing superior health care for a whole lot less money. How much less? Get this:
Taiwan's universal care system provides full coverage for slightly over $21 / month for an individual who is unemployed. A typical family of four where both parents work is paying roughly $75 / month which includes full coverage for both the parents and their two children.
A person who is self-employed pays roughly $45 / month. Someone who is employed at an average income level pays just $10 / month (the employer pays the rest). The out-of-pocket fee for a typical visit to the doctor is roughly five dollars.
Taiwan isn't some third-world country. This is an advanced, first-world nation with state-of-the-art western medical care. They have high-end technology, world-class physicians trained in western medical schools (I mean, if you believe in western medicine as being useful), and some of the most modern hospitals in Asia. I was actually in a Taiwan hospital just a few months ago, and I got to witness a simple outpatient surgical procedure conducted quickly, efficiently and with amazing medical expertise.
Veterans are provided 100% free health insurance for life. Spouses of veterans get 70% of their insurance paid by the government. All farmers and fishermen only have to pay 30% of their insurance, too, because the other 70% is paid by the government. This means the average Taiwan farmer pays just a few dollars a month for health insurance.
Low-income individuals receive 100% free health care and pay nothing for full coverage. (http://www.nhi.gov.tw/english/webdata.asp?me...)
What's covered in Taiwan's universal health care systemTaiwan's universal health care system covers: (http://www.nhi.gov.tw/english/webdata.asp?me...)
• All doctor checkups and routine medical procedures
• All pharmaceuticals
• All dental care other than cosmetic
• All vision and eye care
• Emergency medicine, including ambulance costs (covers 80%, you pay 20%)
• Physical therapy and rehabilitation services
• All prenatal care and birthing care
• Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, herbs and medical massage (Tui-Na)
• At-home care (covers 90%, you pay 10%)
• Long-term chronic care in the hospital (you pay 5% for the first 30 days, then increasingly more the longer you stay, with a maximum of roughly $875 out of pocket per stay, no matter how long)
• All mental health care, including psychiatric medicine
Why Taiwan's universal care worksIf you're an American reading this, you might be astonished at what has just been presented here. How can Taiwan provide all this universal coverage so affordably?
The answer to this is crucial to understand. It explains why Obama's health care reform plan is a complete rip-off. One of the main reasons is because Taiwan doesn't pay monopoly prices for pharmaceuticals (it buys mostly generics). Taiwan doesn't have an insane system of health insurance companies that deny coverage to patients and deny payments to health care providers. Private insurance companies barely have any role in the system at all, eliminating armies of paper pushers who contribute nothing useful to the health outcome of citizens.
Taiwan also doesn't have out-of-control medical malpractice lawsuits. This greatly reduces the cost for medical professionals to practice medicine, thereby drastically lowering the end costs to consumers at the same time. There are no "ambulance chasers" in Taiwan, and doctors don't have to operate out of the constant fear of being sued by some disgruntled patient.
Perhaps most importantly, Taiwan covers preventive medicine and many forms of natural medicine which help keep people healthy at a much lower cost than western medicine. If you need acupuncture or Chinese medicine herbs, just visit an accredited practitioner and your universal health care plan covers most of the cost.
The Taiwan plan isn't perfect -- too many people are using it to hoard prescription drugs that they mail to relatives in China -- but it's so amazingly affordable and efficient that it puts America's health care system to shame.
In fact, if you happen to know any Taiwanese living in America, you already know that they often travel back to Taiwan for dental work or health care procedures. The costs are so much more affordable there that the difference in price pays for a round-trip air ticket with cash to spare!
So if America supposedly offers "the best health care in the world," why do people flee the country to get health care services somewhere else? Why do Mexican-Americans go back to Mexico for their dental work and health care? Why do Canadian-Americans cross the border back into Canada for their health care? Why do American corporations send employees to the Philippines on medical tourism jaunts to have heart surgery or knee replacements?
The answer is because American's health care system is a complete monopoly rip-off, and Obama's health care reform does nothing to resolve that. It just continues the rip-off and in some ways makes it even worse by forcing everyone to participate in that rip-off. It doesn't end the health insurance sham or the pharmaceutical cartel. It doesn't provide nutritional therapies for the people, and it doesn't meaningfully bring down the cost of health care for the unemployed or self-employed. It just forces everyone to participate in a system that's ripping off the American people and American businesses. And in doing so, it will put even more American employers out of business, ultimately causing a huge loss of American jobs.
The broken system of health care in America can't be fixed by fiddling with the details of who pays for monopoly-priced pharmaceuticals. It needs to be discarded and rebuilt from the ground up, with a focus on keeping people healthy rather than fattening the profits of drug companies. Until such a reform proposal comes along that accomplishes that, it doesn't deserve my support, nor yours.
If Taiwan can provide full, universal health care coverage for $21 / month, why can't the U.S. figure out a way to make its own health care somewhat affordable? Even getting it down to $75 / month would be a huge achievement, making it affordable for almost everyone. At that price, mandatory participation requirements wouldn't be so objectionable. Even a minimum-wage worker could afford it.
What's NOT included in Taiwan's universal health care systemTaiwan's universal health care system doesn't cover everything. Here's some of what's not included:
• Cosmetic surgery, including breast enlargement, facial surgery and purely cosmetic dental procedures. If cosmetic reconstruction is necessary due to an accident or injury, then it is covered.
• Sex change surgeries
• Infertility procedures or birth control surgeries
• Over-the-counter medications
• Blood (for transfusions) (You have to buy your own blood, or bring a relative who has some to spare)
• Experimental medicine
• Eye glasses and artificial eyes
• Wheel chairs, walking canes
• Hearing aids
• Substance abuse addiction recovery
Those are the big exclusions. Nearly everything else is covered, including dental, prenatal, emergency medicine and medications.
The reason I'm printing all this here is because during this debate about U.S. health care reform, it's useful to see how other countries have already achieved far more cost-effective and efficient solutions. This indicates that an affordable, quality health care system is possible if only our politicians would find the backbone to create one. If Taiwan can do it, why can't we?
The differences between Taiwan's health care philosophy and America's philosophy is revealingly found in a web-based ad appearing at the Bureau of National Health Insurance for Taiwan (http://www.nhi.gov.tw/). It offers the following advice:
• Drink Water
• Eat a Healthy Diet
• Enjoy Nature
• Be Happy
In the U.S., a similar ad on a U.S. government website would instead say something like:
• Get vaccinated
• Get irradiated with a mammogram
• Take more medications
• Avoid sunlight
• Avoid nutritional supplements and healing herbs
Is it any wonder that the U.S. health care system is failing? The U.S. system pushes pharmaceuticals, surgery and truly bad health advice that just keeps people trapped in a cycle of disease. The Taiwan system, on the other hand, actually encourages people to adopt healthy lifestyle changes and prevent disease. Is it any wonder that Taiwan gets better results?
Of course, even Taiwan's system is heading for its own troubles, thanks mostly to the influx of pharmaceutical advertising. Big Pharma's brainwashing ads are convincing more and more Taiwanese that they need pharmaceutical intervention to be healthy, and the increased demand for pharmaceuticals is starting to take a heavy financial toll on the Taiwan system of universal care. To save their health care systems, both Taiwan and the United States will need to end the domination of Big Pharma over modern medicine and re-emphasize the importance of nutrition and disease prevention in supporting the health of any nation.
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