In 2002 there were only two countries where the people receiving the health care paid less of the costs for that care than in the United States. In the US, government and private insurers pay for nearly 90% of all health costs.
This is one significant reason that the cost of health care is so high in the US. (The other is because we have better health care technology, which costs more to provide.)
Until recently, insurance has always meant to insure against usually unexpected events that are "large" or "infrequent". Somehow, more recently, we have come to demand coverage for nearly everything, and we wonder why the costs climb more than 10% every year.
If health insurance worked the way it should:
...benefits would rarely be paid out. Large but predictable expenses, such as the cost of obstetrics for a normal baby, are not risks that can be spread [over a risk pool], so they are not insurable. Unpredictable expenses, such as the cost of caring for a high-risk infant, are more properly considered an insurable risk. Unpredictable but small expenses, such as the cost of diagnosis and treatment for strep throat, are inappropriate for insurance. Because the cost is low, even a risk-averse consumer would not pay an insurance premium to protect against such expenses.
Yet most of us have employer-purchased health plans, where we pay little--or sometimes no--of the premium. So we have come to expect the strep throat to be covered by the health plan, and we for sure think that normal baby deliveries should be covered.
But that's not what insurance is for. And until we learn that one issue, we will have a blind spot for the fact that government cannot solve the health care crisis. Some people's blind spots are so burned into their perception that they even think government should be called on to solve the health care crisis.
The crisis will be solved when we stop insulating ourselves from all the everyday costs of health care and start taking responsibility for ourselves.
The solution for most health insurance consumers is a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA in NOT a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)--you get to keep the money you don't spend on health care when the end of the year rolls around. This is a huge incentive to cut back on those health care events that fall into the "gray area" of being neither completely necessary or completely unnecessary.
Between myself and my employer, we pay over $15,000 for the health plan for my family. We don't even come close to spending (including health insurance billing) $15,000 in one year for non-catastrophic coverage, even though all we pay usually are $15 or $20 co-pays for office visits. I sure would like to have most of that $15,000 as part of my salary. The health care for me and my family would be just as good (if not better) and I'd feel a lot less poor.