The Swiss Health Care Model Won't Work in the United States

Now that the "public option" health care proposal has become a political hazard, the far left and its water-carrying media are turning to other proposals. The New York Times recently produced a piece lauding the Swiss health care system as a model to emulate. It's all the rage amongst elitists and perhaps it can revive Mr. Obama's "plan" from life support.

In the piece, "Swiss Health Care Thrives Without Public Option," the author notes that, "Like every country in Europe, Switzerland guarantees health care for all its citizens. But the system here does not remotely resemble the model of bureaucratic, socialized medicine often cited by opponents of universal coverage in the United States."

Before getting into the details of how the Swiss system bureaucratically guarantees health care for all its citizens we must observe a fatal problem: The United States is not Switzerland.

Liberals tend to forget that our unique system of federalism does not permit the central government to control the health care policies of the 50 states. I can almost see the glazed-over eyes and yawns. I can almost hear the grumbles: Please, that argument is slightly expired, considering the feds have already assumed partial control of medical care long ago.

Well, as Obama attempts to fundamentally remake America, conservatives and a whole lot of moderates have become inspired to fundamentally reclaim America.

Part of the reclaiming involves transparency initiatives like the "We the People Can Read," campaign that produced HR 554. The current Republican-led resolution would require congressional bills to be posted on the Internet at least 72 hours before voting. The bill would prevent further "stimulus" and "cap and trade" disasters. The bill would not allow thousands of pages of unread drafts, costing billions to become law without public scrutiny. Of course, the most transparent administration in world history has said nothing in support of the House Proposal.

Transparency is a good thing; but a substantive reclaiming of America will require forcing the federal government back to its constitutional limitations. It is untenable to argue that because the federal government has already usurped power and crossed boundaries there is no point in enforcing the Constitution now. That is akin to a pet owner saying: Oh well, my dangerous dog broke away from his chain. No point in re-chaining the beast. Might as well let it run wild. Besides, he's so intelligent and well-meaning.

If we stand true to our foundational principles, no European system works for America.

Comparing Switzerland to the United States is like comparing apples to a cornucopia of assimilated fruit. Newsflash: The Switzerland is not the United State of America.

It would be asinine to compare the United States' divorce system to Switzerland's or Germany's or France's. Personal matters like family law and health care law constitutionally reside with the individual 50 states. Family law is an area the federal government has not usurped and therefore real diversity in family law exists from state to state. Hence, there is no U.S. divorce system. It should be as equally non sequitur to compare the U.S. health care system to any European health care system.

We are nothing like Europe in many respects. Our system of dual sovereignty (federalism) is foremost, which prevents central control in all areas not specifically delegated by the Constitution. The lack of central control allows real diversity and the potential for the free market to flourish. Incidentally, many of the individual states have already implemented variations of state-controlled health care. Some provide medical care for children and some have experimented in socialized medicine. If Massachusetts wants full-on state subsidized health care, then, hey, go for it. Real diversity means different options in different states.

Unfortunately, it appears that Obama and the far left are not about "reforming" health care, but extending the power and control of the central government.

You will notice that no solutions that would actually solve our Obama-proclaimed health care crisis are offered by the Left. Removing the restrictions to purchase health care insurance across state borders would bring down the cost of insurance overnight. So would federal regulations on insurance companies which force expensive policies onto people they don't want. Allowing people to select custom health care policies as they do when selecting auto or other insurance would also drive down costs immediately. Those solutions don't require federal entanglement and therefore they're not very popular with leftists.

The New York Times piece, mentioned above, notes that the Swiss government guarantees health care by transferring taxpayer money in the form of cash subsidies to about 35-40 percent of Swiss households (to go towards health insurance if premiums equal more than 8 percent of personal income).

Additionally, in Switzerland health insurance is mandatory and the insurance companies are heavily regulated. Insurance companies are required to provide a basic, low cost, not-for-profit plan. But all citizens are required to pay out-of-pocket for many medical services, totaling, on average $1,350 annually, according to the Times. By spreading the wealth around I guess it works out for the Swiss. For those who prefer a better health care plan the premiums are rather "hefty," amounting to $13,600 in U.S. dollars for a family of four.

And then there is the issue of the Swiss government controlling "costs," which means doctors and health care industry workers earn substantially less than their counterparts in the good old U.S. of A. Similar to what Obama has promoted by impugning doctors, the Swiss government sets price limits for doctors on medical procedures.

Fundamentally, no federal health care system will work in the United States because of our unique constitutional system and complex collection of partially-sovereign states. Notably, the federal government has no jurisdiction to force citizens to purchase insurance by threat of penalty. And then there is the Democrat's problem of the elderly. In Switzerland, many elderly citizens must sink or swim on government subsidies. There is no separate system of "Medicare" for the elderly in the land of the Alps.

Like much of Europe, the Swiss are a homogenous and distinct people whose health and health care system cannot reasonably be compared to the diversity we find in America. All European governments operate from systems of central control. One size fits all.

In the United States that just doesn't work.

Monte Kuligowski can be reached at