The Danish health care system is the nightmare of any anti-government free market believer -- it's a tax-funded state-run universal health care system. Denmark provides "free" health care to all residents, funded through taxes.
There is an optional private health care sector, but it is tiny compared with the vastly larger public system that is used by most of the population. Users pay for a few procedures, such as fertility treatments (from the third attempt onwards) and non-essential cosmetic surgery, as well as most of their own dental care and a portion of prescription medication. Apothecaries are privately owned, but doctors" visits and hospitalization, including tests, treatment, follow-up care, and some medication, are fully covered.
The Danish health care system is not cheap. According to OECD's Health Data 2009, Denmark's health cost per person, public and private, was $3,512. But in the US the cost is more than double at $7,290! In addition, Danish health care covers everybody - 100 percent of the population-while in the U.S. fewer than 80 percent of citizens are covered, and often only partially. So basically the U.S. system costs more than twice as much and still leaves nearly a quarter of the population in the lurch if they need any medical care. In fact, the U.S. could get universal coverage and still save about 1 trillion dollars per year on health care.
So what makes Danish health care so cheap? It's not because it's of poorer quality. According to international surveys, more than 90 percent of Danes are totally satisfied with their health care, and it uses the most advanced methods available anywhere. And per capita there are more hospital beds and doctors than in the U.S. It's mainly cheap because it's a lot simpler to manage. There are no medical insurance companies or lawyers operating for profit, or financial background checks. There are no uninsured, so there is no paperwork if you get sick or injured. Some proof of identity-citizenship or residence status - is all you need. And Danes are still free to pick their own family doctors, as long as they choose one within their own geographical area, and they have a choice of hospitals and in certain cases can even opt for treatment abroad. Of course Denmark's universal health care means a higher overall tax bill and that healthy people are paying for the treatment of sick people through their taxes. But because the system is simpler and less profit-oriented, it ends up being cheaper for everybody.
U.S. health care is the most expensive system on earth and incredibly wasteful. Of course the Danish or Scandinavian welfare systems have a radically different social model. But Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries clearly prove that a government-run system can provide its population with superior care without being inefficient, bloated, or costly. Stronger state regulations ensure that the money pouring through the system ends up where it's supposed to: with doctors and health care providers. The pharmaceutical industry still gets its fair share since medication is still bought on the free market. This rewards innovation.
In the U.S., health care financing is siphoned off by lawyers, administrators, and insurance companies; the cost of lobbying lawmakers and advertising is astronomical. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not support universal health care for its citizens. A greater degree of government involvement in health care might be un-American, but when the American system has abjectly failed, a refusal to look abroad for better models is simply self-defeating.
A good public healthcare system starts with learning to control unit costs. Obamacare, that monstrosity that was jammed down our throats by the Congress with little debate and lawmakers openly admitting they never ever read the bill, does nothing to control costs. We can do better.