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National Approaches Health Insurance - The Future Of Health Care

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One of the greatest challenges facing health care systems today is the aging of the world population. As noted in the financing section, spending on care for elderly persons already makes up a substantial portion of health care costs. These costs will to continue to rise as the size of the elderly population grows, with people living longer than they ever have before. Most countries are experiencing aging populations, but the most dramatic example of the aging phenomenon is Table 5 Long-Term Care Usage SOURCE: Jacobzone, S. "Ageing and Care for Frail Elderly Persons: An Overview of International Perspectives." Paris, France: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1999. Japan. Life expectancy at birth in Japan rose from seventy to eighty-four years for women and from sixty-five to seventy-seven years for men between 1960 and 1999. In 1960, 5.7 percent of the Japanese population was age sixty-five and older, while 16.7 percent of the population was age sixty-five and older in 1999. Projections indicate that more than 20 percent of Japan's population will be age sixty-five or older in 2020. Meanwhile, in the United States, the large group of baby boomers will result in a growing proportion of elderly persons beginning in about 2010.

Countries continue to explore new ways of financing and managing their health care systems. In Sweden, for example, efforts have been made to privatize the hospitals. Many of these reforms are aimed at controlling costs, either due to concerns about population aging or because of overall economic and structural shifts in governments. France has instituted a number of reforms intended to reduce soaring health care costs. Most of these have involved increasing patients' contributions for medical services, particularly for pharmaceuticals; however, the wide prevalence of supplementary private insurance schemes to cover these increased payments has limited success of these reforms. In another attempt to control costs, the Netherlands attempted in the early 1990s to implement a system incorporating greater private insurer control. However, since this plan met great opposition from both physicians and the public, these reforms were halted, and the government has instead focused on providing a more efficient public health care system.

Other types of reforms are aimed at improving the quality and availability of health care. In the mid-1990s, the German government passed a law intended to improve equity of care by allowing nearly all insured individuals a choice of sickness funds. Prior to the law's enactment, workers had access to sickness funds of differing quality. In Canada, meanwhile, a recent study showed that a significant number of family physicians are limiting the number of new patients they will accept, signaling an issue in access to care in Canada that will need to be addressed. The one consistent trait across these diverse health systems is that they are all undergoing reform. It remains to be seen how all these changes will effect the provision of health care throughout the world.

ELISE L. GOULD, ET AL.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Age Concern England. "New Survey of GPs Confirms Ageism in the NHS." World Wide Web document, 2000. www.ACE.org.uk.

BOCOGNANO, A.; COUFFINHAL, A.; DUMESNIL, S.; and GRIGNON, M. "Which Coverage for Whom? Equity of Access to Health Insurance in France." World Wide Web document, 2000. www.credes.fr/En_ligne/

College of Family Physicians of Canada. "Initial Data Release of the 2001 National Family Physician Workforce Survey." World Wide Web document, 2001. www.cfpc.ca/research/

DIDERICHSEN, F. "Sweden." Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 25, no. 5 (2000): 931–935.

FRONSTIN, P. "Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2001 Population Survey." EBRI Issue Brief No. 240. Washington, D.C.: Employee Benefit Research Institute.

JACOBZONE, S. "Ageing and Care for Frail Elderly Persons: An Overview of International Perspectives." Paris, France: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1999.

JACOBZONE, S. "Pharmaceutical Policies in OECD Countries: Reconciling Social and Industrial Goals," Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Papers No. 40. Paris, France: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2000.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. "OECD Health Data 2001: A Comparative Analysis of 30 Countries." Paris, France: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2001.

World Health Organization. "Report on Health, Statistical Annex, Table 10." Geneva: WHO, 2000.

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