Good Doctor

K-Drama series “Good Doctor” features a brilliant performance by Joo Won, who plays a doctor with an autistic-like developmental disability.   It’s a Korean version of “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy.”    No doubt, S. Korea’s technologically advanced healthcare system is impressive, on par with the best in the world.   It is this system that Bernie Sanders fan, Dr. Paul Song, says should be the model for the United States.

[Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who believes healthcare is a fundamental human right and that our current healthcare status quo is broken and immoral. Senator Sanders rightfully recognizes that a single payer Medicare-for-all system remains the only true way to guarantee universal comprehensive coverage of all people living in America.

Priyadharshini Chidombaram wrote an excellent paper, “Possible Adaptations to the United States from South Korea’s Healthcare System,” for a 2015 honors senior thesis.   There are a few observations adapted from his research.

  1.  A single-payer system is only possible when you have a S. Korea’s strong economy, high productivity, and low unemployment.
  2. A single-payer system would be best managed at the state, not federal level.   Look at the size of S. Korea compared to the U.S. population.  What works there could work in New York, but not Georgia or Texas.  Each state has a vastly different situation, with varying health care needs and economic factors.  A “one size fits all”, single-payer solution for the entire country is unlikely to be successful.
  3. Consider that Canada has a government-run, single-payer health insurance system which is plagued with long wait times, restricted access to the latest technology, and fiscal shortages.   Also consider that Medicare spending is financially unsustainable without serious reform.  Not to mention the billions in waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare system.   We need to reform our current system before expanding it!
  4.  A single-payer system works when you have S. Korea’s national debt.   It is 35% of GDP, compared to the national debt of the U.S. which is 104.68% of GDP.
  5.  S. Korea’s single-payer system requires a significant amount of cost sharing by the citizens, while maintaining a Medicaid type safety net funded by taxes.   This was evident in the “Good Doctor,” where a woman had to work an undesirable job to pay for medical expenses for her father.  It seemed that he would have been forced to leave the hospital without her doing so.
  6. There are elements of capitalism in the S. Korea’s health care system.   If you’re wealthy, you can afford the private, more luxurious hospital room.   I assume that cosmetic and lasik surgeries are cash-pay procedures, which are more accessible now than ever before.

A single-payer system is achievable only with Trump’s plans to revitalize the economy, at the state, not federal level.