Startling US Health Care Insights I Learned While Watching Netflix
It’s no secret that health care in the United States is a subject of great controversy. While more and more countries across the globe – including Canada, Mexico, and much of Europe – are transitioning into adopting a more accessible public health care system, the United States has yet to follow. Most health care facilities in the United States are owned and operated by private sector businesses, compared to being owned by government organizations in other similarly advanced countries. Even though health care in the US is heavily subsidized, citizens still pay tremendous amounts of money out of their own pockets to secure insurance that is mandated by law, and yet still many Americans receive substandard medical care. While health care policy is not an easy topic to understand without doing a fair amount of research, there are many highly accessible films and stories that help illustrate the urgency and poor current state of health care in the United States. Pay attention, and a handful of sobering, even frightening realizations tend to quickly surface.
First, healthcare is so unaffordable in the United States that many Americans, especially those in lower income brackets, actually end up forced to spend far more money than they have. Because the cost of even a basic medical visit can be so high, many people tend to ignore and privately cope with health concerns, and thus they never receive care to treat low-level problems. These issues get worse over time, until they become life-threatening emergencies. Then there is no choice but to receive care from an emergency room, the only medical service required to receive every patient regardless of whether they are insured or not. The cost of emergency room treatment is exorbitantly high, to the point where the bills from just one emergency room visit can send a family into debt. This is a vicious cycle particularly in low-income communities. The Waiting Room, a documentary exposing the story of a public hospital struggling to care for a community of low-income and mostly uninsured patients, provides a look into why the United States health care system is hurting Americans.
Another issue with the medical and health care industries is that focus is placed entirely on treating existing diseases and health concerns, but no attention is given to providing education for how to prevent illnesses. Instead of teaching Americans how chronic disease and the consequent costly treatments can be avoided, the majority of health care spending is put into direct treatment. A more in-depth look at this holistic approach can be found in Vitality, which provides a more philosophical and preventative solution to American health concerns.
But perhaps most insidious of all is the current influence of the American pharmaceutical industry and the medical professionals buying into its power. Doctors in the United States write more unnecessary prescriptions than in any other country, and they are paid to do so. In 2003, over 3 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States, which averages out to over 11 prescriptions per American citizen. The tendency of doctors to over-prescribe not only costs Americans billions of dollars in medicine and insurance costs, but also creates new illnesses and health concerns caused by unnecessary prescriptions. This apparent health care conspiracy is examined in-depth in American Addict, a film on the dependency of Americans on prescription medications and the implications of feeding the pharmaceutical industry.
These films and documentaries, as well as many others, can be found on Netflix in the Health category. (International viewers can learn which VPN is best to watch Netflix overseas here.) Watch, learn, and decide for yourself: In terms of United States health care, what do we need to change, and where to we begin?