Ted Cruz Calls “Socialized Medicine” A “Complete Disaster”

But lots of countries have some form of publicly funded health care that works better than America’s system, argues Christina Farr.

Ted Cruz Calls “Socialized Medicine” A “Complete Disaster”
[Photo: Flickr user Michael Vadon]

Ted Cruz’s worst nightmare? Obamacare and the so-called evils of socialized medicine.


At tonight’s Republican debate, Cruz, Donald Trump, and other candidates called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Cruz went on to call “socialized medicine” a “complete disaster.”

But the term “socialized medicine” is a bit of a misnomer. It is used pejoratively by American conservatives to describe publicly funded health systems. Most of the Western world adheres to some form of publicly funded heath care, whether full or partial, alongside a parallel system of private insurance.

Describing these systems as an unadulterated “disaster” simply doesn’t reflect the facts. From a recent global health report:

In 2013, the U.S. spent far more on health care than these other countries. Higher spending appeared to be largely driven by greater use of medical technology and higher health care prices, rather than more frequent doctor visits or hospital admissions. In contrast, U.S. spending on social services made up a relatively small share of the economy relative to other countries. Despite spending more on health care, Americans had poor health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy and greater prevalence of chronic conditions.

The World Health Organization ranked American health care 37th in the world, behind Chile, Australia, and Costa Rica. The United States drastically outspends its peer nations when it comes to health care costs per capita, without delivering better outcomes.

In Australia, for instance, public coverage is guaranteed to all, and wealthier residents are encouraged to use the private system. Australians have a higher life expectancy than U.S. residents, more hospital beds, and lower rates of obesity. Germany’s version of a public health insurance system covers nearly everyone in the country (Obamacare has some similarities with this system). Health care costs are under control compared to the U.S., and Germans can see almost any doctor they want within a day or two. Disastrous? Not quite.

That said, “socialized medicine” hasn’t been a success in all countries. Brazil, for instance, has faced myriad setbacks as it’s tried to extend health care to all of its residents.

About the author

Christina Farr is a San Francisco-based journalist specializing in health and technology. Before joining Fast Company, Christina worked as a reporter for VentureBeat, Reuters and KQED.