In 2015, Leon Lederman had a very difficult decision to make. His medical debts were mounting, and he only had one asset valuable enough to cover his debt: his Nobel medal, which he won in 2012 for his work on subatomic particles. Although it represented decades of hard work, it had to be done. Lederman sold his medal for $765,000 in order to get healthcare.
Americans might not be able to agree on what their healthcare system should look like, but nearly everybody agrees that the current one is about as useful as window wipers on a submarine. We’ve known for a long time that most other wealthy countries have some form of universal healthcare (defined here as a system that covers >90% of the population). But even countries that aren’t typically thought of as rich have this system. Kuwait, for instance, has universal healthcare, and it’s GDP was about $120 billion in 2017. For comparison, the state of Nebraska alone has a higher GDP than Kuwait. So do 35 other states.
Who else doesn’t have universal healthcare?
Without a universal healthcare system, the U.S. has put itself in an awfully exclusive club. Out of the 195 countries in the world, a little under 40 don’t have universal healthcare systems. In this regard, America’s list mates include Afghanistan, Syria, and Kuwait.
On the Human Development Index (which evaluates countries based on factors like life expectancy, quality of life, etc.), the U.S. places 13th in the world. In the club of countries without a universal healthcare system, the next highest is the Caribbean nation Saint Kitts and Nevis, which placed at 72nd. There are 59 other countries worse off than the United States who still managed to look after most of their citizens’ lives.
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