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Common Concerns: International Issues in Health Care System Reform

President's Message from 1998 Annual Report

Most industrialized nations want similar things from their health care systems: effective services that improve the health and quality of life of their citizens, equitable access to those services, and efficient use of resources. In pursuing those goals, however, different countries have historically taken very different paths.The United States has relied heavily on market forces to shape the provision of health care services, while countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom have given government a much stronger role.

To a great extent, these choices have formed the systems we know today.The American health system has the advantages of flexibility and innovation, providing technologically advanced health care to the majority of Americans with good health insurance coverage. By contrast, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries have done a better job of controlling total health spending, assuring access to basic health care for all citizens, and reducing preventable mortality and morbidity.

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Common Concerns: International Issues in Health Care System Reform, Karen Davis, Ph.D., The Commonwealth Fund, February 1999