U.S. learns from Swiss, Dutch healthcare

Jan. 16, 2009 at 1:54 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Swiss and Dutch healthcare systems can serve as examples for U.S. healthcare reformers, officials at a U.S. non-profit group said.

Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said both countries cover all but 1 percent of their population due to an individual mandate to purchase health insurance and premium assistance for those with low incomes.

Switzerland and the Netherlands have mixed public-private systems, with an individual mandate and insurance market reforms that are similar to the Massachusetts universal coverage law. Both countries' health systems also feature patient choice, broad access to care and low rates of disparities in care, the study said.

Robert E. Leu of the University of Bern, Switzerland, and colleagues said the United States spent 15 percent of gross domestic product and $6,700 per capita on healthcare in 2006, while Switzerland spent 11 percent and the Netherlands 9 percent of GDP on healthcare. Per capita spending was $4,300 in Switzerland and $2,800 in the Netherlands.

Both countries achieve better health outcomes compared to the United States -- in 2005 life expectancy in the United States was 77.8 years, compared with 81.4 years in Switzerland and 79.1 years in the Netherlands.

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