The way healthcare in the United States is delivered, including what goods and services get paid for, is undergoing unprecedented change thanks to factors ranging from the Affordable Care Act to provider consolidation. But one thing that hasn’t changed much and isn’t likely to anytime soon is who pays for our healthcare. Unless voters elect Bernie Sanders—the only 2016 presidential candidate advocating a single-payer national healthcare system—to the White House come November, the third-party payer system is probably here to stay.
Critics argue that this model is responsible for giving the United States the dubious distinction of having some of the highest healthcare costs in the world. In fact, the United States spent more per capita on healthcare—$9086—in 2013 than 12 other high-income countries, including France, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and Canada, according to a report from the Commonwealth Fund. Yet despite throwing all that money around, we also have the lowest life expectancy and some of the worst health outcomes among the other relatively wealthy nations studied.
I would argue that the third-party payer system also hurts Americans in another way: It’s holding back medtech innovation.