10 Excellent Infographics to Learn About the U.S. Healthcare System

HealthcareIt is rather easy to conclude that in order to have any useful contribution to the raging health care debate, you must have a firm understanding of the U.S. Healthcare System. With this in mind, we’ve found 10 excellent infographics that can help illuminate some of the problems with the current system, as well as how the current system is set up, and what some proposed changes might mean.

The Current System

The current healthcare system in the US can seem quite complicated to some. Essentially, private insurance companies offer “coverage options” and are paid accordingly. When an American goes to the doctor, gets an operation, buys prescription drugs, and more, their insurance company will “pay” for it. The amount paid varies depending on coverage, if the person goes to an approved healthcare professional, if the insurance company approves the treatment, and so on. Typically, people who are covered by insurance have their coverage through their employer. Companies make deals with insurance providers to give their employees insurance options.

  1. Insurance Market ShareBusiness Week — This shows the market share of insurers in every state. It may (or may not) be surprising to find that in some states, certain insurance companies have an overwhelming amount of the total market share. Since the U.S. system is based on having insurance, if there is little competition, companies can charge much higher rates without worrying about losing customers to competitors, and can deny coverage to those customers who may be more “risky” (likely to get sick), without worrying about incurring losses. This advantage becomes even more startling when one considers that doctors might want to make sure they are in the largest possible network in the state in order to get the most patients. Conversely, patients might have extra incentive to simply go with the largest provider in order to have the most options for doctors. In the end, higher costs can be charged and the market has a more difficult time setting a price.
  2. Lipitor CostsGood.is — A simple infographic, showing the cost of a drug (Lipitor) in America, compared to its cost in countries around the world. That being said, the information one can obtain from it is much more complicated. One of the largest criticisms of the current U.S. Healthcare System is the fact that costs can be astronomical at times. Some argue that this is because of the insurance system America has in place. Why would a drug cost so much more in the US? One reason is that in countries with socialized healthcare, governments set price caps on certain drugs, which can lower healthcare costs. Another reason is simply that generics hold less sway in countries with socialized medicine, so blockbuster drug makers don’t need to charge as much before their patent runs out.
  3. Healthcare CostsNational Geographic — Another infographic that brings to light the cost of healthcare in America. You cannot even see where America is on the healthcare cost spectrum from the thumbnail, but if you view the enlarged picture, you will notice that the US is substantially higher than any other country in terms of average healthcare costs. The average American spends about $7,290 yearly on healthcare. The next highest cost is Switzerland where they spend just over $4,000 yearly on healthcare.
  4. Healthcare GDPThe Toilet Paper.com — Brings yet another infographic that analyzes health care costs. This jarring infographic shows several developed countries’ spending on healthcare as a percentage of GDP. Many people consider GDP to be the largest indicator of a country’s economic stability. The US, according to this graphic, currently spends 15% of it’s GDP on healthcare. The next closest is Switzerland at 11.6%.
  5. Healthcare v TerrorismFastcompany.com — The final infographic in this section comes from Fast Company.com . In the current US Healthcare system, some argue that it is unfair because not everyone can receive coverage. If you are unemployed, or working part-time, it may be difficult to get insurance, or it may simply not be an option. This infographic shows deaths from lack of healthcare coverage versus deaths from terrorism. The morbid comparison being how much the US Government spends on defense versus how much it spends on providing healthcare to every citizen.

Proposed Changes

Because of what many people see as significant flaws in the U.S. Healthcare System, there have been many discussions on ways to change the system entirely. How exactly to go about changing the system has caused significant political upheaval in the United States. Some argue that the only option is a government-run, socialized healthcare system. Others argue that the system should remain privatized, but that more competition is needed. Still others argue that the current system is fine. In any case, these infographics can give you an idea of some proposals.

  1. GOP Healthcare ChartFox News — A pdf infographic that shows the health plan proposed by the House Democrats, . As you can see, it is quite complicated. Looking at this graphic, healthcare reform is a labyrinth-like maze of government inefficiency that will only raise costs and provide little help to the general public. Many persons opposed to the universal healthcare plan cite increased costs, confusing infrastructure, and coverage for those who shouldn’t have coverage.
  2. Democratic Healthcare ChartRobert Palmer at Flickr — Here is another graph of the health plan proposed by House Democrats. It looks slightly-less complicated, but still leaves a lot of questions for someone who is uninformed on the debate. Democrats maintain that the goal for a nationalized healthcare initiative would be to provide coverage for all, while allowing people who already have plans to keep their plans, while attempting to force private insurance companies to lower premiums by introducing more competition to the market.
  3. Simple FlowchartGood.is — The simplest of the three healthcare reform flowcharts breaks it down to the essential facts. Start from the top left and answer the questions to yourself. Each answer has an arrow that directs you to the associated funding from the federal government. The idea behind this graph is to further illustrate that if you already have coverage, you won’t have to pay any additional cost. However, this graph also shows that no matter what happens with the healthcare debate, there will be substantial costs involved.
  4. Health Care CostsVisual Economics — This infographic shows that changing the current healthcare system, and attempting to provide health care to all will certainly result in some costs. This infographic details just how much a “free health care plan” could end up costing, and goes on to detail where the money to pay for it all will come from. Persons who dislike taxes may be disinclined to support this view of reform, since businesses and others may have their taxes increased in order to pay for it all.
  5. Health Government CostsGood.is — Costs have been identified as one of the biggest issues with the current healthcare system. This final infographic shows, with the help of solid data, where some healthcare savings might be able to be found.

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