The greatest health care in the world

Aasif Mandvi takes a close look at the claims made by some that the US provides the greatest health care in the world. As part of his investigation, he goes with Stan Brock and his Remote Area Medical (RAM) team that goes to remote areas around the world to provide free medical care to people who need them.

Brock’s work was recognized by our university that awarded him the Inamori Ethics Prize in 2010 (I happen to be part of the selection committee) and the work they do is truly impressive. As the award citation pointed out:

Stan Brock’s Remote Area Medical (RAM) delivers free health care services to communities in the United States and isolated regions around the world. A humanitarian, conservationist and former co-host of the TV show “Wild Kingdom,” Brock founded RAM in 1985.

Staffed by volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and veterinarians, RAM has served hundreds of thousands of patients at its free clinics. RAM conducts these medical missions wherever they are needed, regardless of danger or difficult conditions—from the hills of Appalachia near its home base in Tennessee to the mountains of Nepal. Brock himself makes no salary and lives without luxury, devoting his time and energy exclusively to RAM’s mission.

The callousness of the some of the well-to-do in the US to the lack of minimal, let along adequate, health care for poor people, as seen in the video below, is truly disgusting.

(This clip aired on March 6, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)


  1. badgersdaughter says

    My husband and I are going to move to his hometown in the UK. People here in Houston ask me, in obvious shock and dismay, whether I am aware of all of the stories of people getting inferior treatment or having to wait for treatment under the NHS. I point out that the reason they are aware of those issues is because they make worldwide headline news. And then I ask when was the last time they read a news story about someone dying of a preventable or treatable disease in the US because they couldn’t even stand in line for treatment or get even inferior care.

  2. Dunc says

    I’m perfectly happy to accept the notion that the best health care in the world is available in the US, but that’s a slightly different statement… I’m sure if you’re one of the global elite, the best clinics in the world are in the US -- they just happen to be very, very expensive. And hey, if you’ve got that sort of money, it doesn’t actually matter which country you live in anyway. The well-off in the UK don’t rely on the NHS, they go to private clinics just like anywhere else. If you’ve got the money, you can have whatever standard of care you like. The difference lies in what happens to those who don’t.

  3. says

    If you’ve got the money, you can have whatever standard of care you like

    What’s amazing to me is that the wealthy in the US include a percentage who actually want to make it worse for everyone else. I can understand a degree of “fuck you, I’ve got mine” but “fuck you I’ve got mine, so I’m destroying yours” is bizzare. I wonder how much if it is that some of those people were raised with or worked in an environment where transactions tend to be zero-sum. It’s as if they’re businessmen who mistakenly feel that if they make the poor’s medical care worse, theirs will somehow get better.

  4. Dunc says

    Yeah, that’s a very good point Marcus. It’s something Amanda Marcotte has remarked on a number of times, but I’m not sure if anybody has come up with a really convincing explanation of the psychology behind it. She argues that it’s largely a case of not wanting to share anything with Those People, which I think is probably part of it, and I do think there’s a lot of zero-sum thinking involved as you suggest. However, I also think there’s another element -- exclusivity is attractive in itself. That’s why you can buy solid-gold, diamond-encrusted fountain pens, or watches that cost millions of dollars -- not because they’re really any better, but simply because it’s something other people can’t afford. If we suddenly discovered a massive new source of gold, which made it as cheap and common as lead, lots of people would get rid of their gold jewellery in favour of something which was still scarce. And then there’s diamonds, which aren’t nearly as rare as most people think, but are instead kept in artificial scarcity by a cartel. In a sense, US healthcare is in a state of artificial scarcity too.

  5. AnotherAnonymouse says

    After four years with my company, we switched from one insurance provider to a broker. Our insurance went up to $1,000/month for family coverage…and as I just found out this week, the insurance that I’ve shelled out $3k for so far this year is worthless. It appears our insurance doesn’t allow us to see any providers *in my state*.

    I could have put that $3k in the bank and paid cash (provided my primary care office took cash, which they don’t, so they cancelled my appointment).

    The USA may or may not have the best care in the world, but if no provider will see you even though you’re shelling out $1,000/month in insurance premiums, then you’re just as screwed as someone with absolutely no doctors at all.

    P.S. I’ve been browsing the ACA sites and I’ll likely sign up and pay two times for insurance just to ensure I can actually be seen when I need to.

  6. snoeman says

    A. Noyd @#3: Yeah, that moment was awesome in how devastating it was. I’ve enjoyed a number of pieces Aasif Mandvi’s done, but that one’s going to stand out.

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