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The Rice Family Health Reform Legacy

August 11, 2021

Health Insurance Systems: An International Comparison
Academic Press

By Thomas Rice

Chapter 16, Some Insights

Health outcomes

How much a country invests in its health care system does not have a strong influence on the outcome measures examined here. That is further exemplified by the fact that the United States spends by far the most, but performed among the worst in avoidable mortality, and was the poorest in measures of safe care.


The most glaring finding regards the US system, which was far more unpopular than any of the others. There are many likely reasons for this. One centers on the economic insecurity people face not only by the lack of comprehensive benefits, but also by the prospect of being without coverage if they lose their jobs.

A second reason for the US system’s unpopularity is likely to be its expense, which requires not only considerable patient cost sharing but also high premiums from employers and employees, and considerable taxes to support Medicare and Medicaid.

A third and more general reason is that the American people do not share a common view on issues such as health care being a right.

Final thoughts

There is little agreement about what aspects of health insurance systems are the highest priority for reform. Different researchers reach entirely different conclusions about what are the overall best health care systems. Nine of the ten countries have, at least broadly speaking, reached similar conclusions about the necessary and desirable underpinnings of their health insurance systems. These include (1) building systems based on the ethic of affordable, equitable access to care, (2) having a single, publicly mandated insurance system to promote fairness and efficiency, (3) using government for health care planning activities involving the supply of resources and constraining prices, and (4) employing economic tools to determine covered benefits and prices, especially for pharmaceutical products. There is a great deal of variety in how each country implements each of these; nevertheless, it would be hard to deny that there is strong international agreement in such critical areas. The United States is a notable exception.

Dorothy Rice, Pioneering Economist Who Made Case for Medicare, Dies at 94
The New York Times

March 4, 2017

Dorothy Rice, a pioneering government economist and statistician whose research about the need of the aged for health insurance helped make the case for the passage of Medicare in 1965, died on Feb. 25 in Oakland, Calif. She was 94.

Health Law Kickoff May Be More Challenging Than Medicare’s Start
September 30, 2013

Dorothy Rice says California’s implementation of the law (Affordable Care Act) may go more smoothly, because of the state’s rigorous efforts. But she hopes eventually the national health care system will look more like Medicare.

Comment by: Don McCanne

Years ago, our California chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program had the honor of a visit from a most distinguished guest: Dorothy Rice, who had laid the foundations leading to the Medicare program. She really admired what we were doing. We hit it off so well that she had us over to her home for a garden party where we celebrated the prospect of providing Medicare to everyone. As documented above, she hoped that we would have a national health care system that looked like Medicare.

Dorothy’s son, Tom, a respected UCLA health policy professor, recently published a book seeking policy insights from the United States and several other countries. Although many of the lessons drawn would logically lead to advocacy for a single payer Medicare for All system, Tom maintains that all successful systems have lessons for us. He does not recommend single payer; he sees building on the ACA.

We do have one lesson for Tom: Listen to your Mom. She understood the need for Medicare, and, more recently, the need for Medicare for All. We are pleased that you have provided us with the policy science that supports Medicare for All. We invite you to avidly echo your mother’s advocacy for health justice for all via single payer.

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