The American Health Care Paradox, Why Spending More is Getting Us Less

The Paradox of American Health Care

The paradox of American health care. Elizabeth H. Bradley and Lauren A. Taylor wrote the book Why Spending More is Getting Us Less, which was released by New York, NY: Public Affairs in 2013. The book provides insight into general considerations, discrepancies in statistics presentation for the health sector, and the precise results of expenditure and resource allocation for the health sector. The book uses statistics that are in the public domain to illustrate how it wants to disprove the idea that funding for the health sector in general is paying off. In their argument, the authors dispute the figures as being a generalization of the ideal situation or a presentation of the assumption of the desired outcome as compared to the reality within the society. The book narrates of the dominance of the burden of disease within the community despite the numerous interventions that have been done by the government and other institutions. The main argument in the book is that there is wrong prioritization in the health sector in general with the government spending more on the treatment more than the prevention and the investment on the social services. The author emphasizes that if more investment could be directed towards the prevention and the improvement of social services, then the cost of health care services could be reduced.

Comparison of Health Sector Outcome

The author compares the health sector outcome of US with thirty other nations in a bid to uncover the solution to the paradox surrounding the health sector and the reason why there are disparities between the outcome and the budgetary allocations in the health sector. After extensive research into the topic, the authors determine that the reason for the paradox is that the US has ignored one of the critical areas, the social services (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). Therefore, it is concluded in the book that if a productive healthcare outcome is to be realized, then the allocation must take into consideration the social services.

Importance of Social Support and Social Services to the Health Care System

The social services of concern include old-age assistance, family supports, housing subsidies, and employment programs all of which play a vital role in the determination of the health condition of the society. Further, the author prioritizes the services regarding their importance according to a survey conducted. The study revealed that fitness is the most important social service with 75% of respondents while nutritional food which is primarily healthy eating was second with 64% (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). Other services included employment assistance which stood at 52%, education which is mainly health education was with 49%, and finally, housing was at 43 percent% (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). In that regard, the author establishes that investing in well-structured systems of environmental, economic, and social support can accelerate the health while supporting individuals’ need for well-being.

Reducing the Overall Cost of Healthcare

The importance of the social services according to the authors is that it reduces the overall cost of the healthcare. The book points out on the importance of improving the social services which will in return improve the quality of life and hence the reducing the burden of disease. The move is contrary to the current situation in America where accountability for the allocation to the health sector is through advocacy for poverty programs to increase the coverage of the programs. Additionally, paying more attention to the social services reduces the prevalence of disease since hygienic and secure environment will help promote a healthy society.

Comparison with Other Countries

How American Healthcare System Differs from that of Other Countries

Despite the development and the admiration that is associated with the US healthcare system, less has been achieved in the realization of the outcome of the process mainly due to misprioritization of resources. The US has ignored the importance of social services and social support infrastructure to the process of ensuring a positive outcome is realized from the investment into the health sector. In the book, the authors compared the spending of US on social services with the allocation by other developed countries and the revelation is demoralizing. Other developed counties like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway spends between 16 to 21 percent of the individual country’s GDP on social welfare services the US which is believed to have a superior population and GDP spends less than ten percent on social services annually (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). The small allocation is the primary cause of the paradox according to the authors.

The author notes that the US health system differs from those of other countries since it concentrates on treating a disease rather than putting more efforts on the prevention of the problem. The author uses an example to illustrate the situation which shows the unrealistic prioritization of the allocation of resources to the health sector in general. The book illustrates that that it is simple to help a diabetic with $50 to spend on new shoes to avoid an expenditure of $30,000 for surgery which may follow a visit into the emergency room (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). However, the American healthcare system is designed to the contrary of this example, and it promotes the availability of surgery services rather than the prevention of the cause. Another disturbing difference between the American healthcare system and that of other nations is the primary definition of health and healthcare. In that regard, the author quotes the words of the Danish Health Minister who defined health as the a means that an individual can use to choose exactly the life he or she desires. The definition differs from the American perspective which recognizes health as a necessity to pleasurable life as evident from the American hospital slogan “Because your health means everything,” (Bradley & Taylor, 2013).

There are many things that other countries are doing that if they were adopted by America, then an improved healthcare system will be realized. Top on the list is the allocation of social services which are of primary importance in realizing a healthy society. Secondly, other countries have put adequate attention on the prevention of the cause of a health situation as opposed to America which is putting more efforts in treating the diseases that would have otherwise been prevented (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). The author also advocates for the inclusion of the social services in the determination of the outcome of a health care system to ensure that the statistic gives a true reflection of the health condition in the society.

How to Achieve a Healthy Society

A healthy society similar to that one described by the authors can be achieved by investing in the social services like fitness, healthy eating, employment, education, and proper housing. Secondly, it is vital to understand that for a healthy society to be achieved, every stakeholder must play a part of the solution and not rely on governments intervention as the sole contributor to the health sector. However, to realize the goal, various policies need to be changed to help in facilitating the implementation process. As indicated in the book the constitution of the country does not pay attention to social and economic rights it neither guarantees the right to education nor the right to old-age pensions (Bradley & Taylor, 2013). Which implies that there is need to enact policies that will help ensure that the social services are part of the acts that govern the country and hence reducing the burden of disease. Additionally, the primary consideration is to make sure more attention is given to the social support services and the prevention rather than curing of the cause of the health problems. However, the move to change the outlook of the system will be faced with challenges from the beneficiaries of the wrong policies and systems.


Bradley, E., & Taylor, L. (2013). The American health care paradox: Why spending more is getting us less. Public Affairs.

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