Health care systems in many countries are always structured to respond to the needs of individual citizens. Most developed countries advocate for affordable health care for all. However, due to differences in health care costs, statistics, mortality rates, major illnesses, legislations, and demographics, there are usually variations even among the health care systems of developed countries.
The funding for the health care system in Portugal is mainly done by the government through direct taxes. Government funding in Portugal is achieved through legislation that requires all employers to enroll their employees in a social security fund. The security fund is then pooled and channeled towards the provision of free and subsidized health care for all citizens (Faria, 2010). However, the funding of the health care system in the US is more complicated consisting of finances from both the government and the private sector. Government funding in the US is provided through programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP while private funding is provided through programs such as individual insurance and group insurance (Jonas, 2007).
The US spends more of its income on health care than most developed countries including Portugal. In 2005 alone, the US spent close to 2 trillion dollars on health care while Portugal barely spent half the amount. More than three-quarters of the total health expenditure in the US goes into the treatment and management of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardio-pulmonary diseases, and diabetes (Jonas, 2007). In Portugal, most of the funding channeled towards health care is also spent on chronic diseases like in the US. However, the situation is not as serious in Portugal as it is in the US. Infant mortality rates in both Portugal and the US have dropped significantly in the past 20 years with the rate in the US currently standing at 0.006% while the rate in Portugal standing at 0.0072%. The general realization is that there is a slight difference in the infant mortality rates between the two countries (Johnson& Harriet, 2009). The major government agency responsible for the provision of health services to the citizens in Portugal is the NHS (National Health Services) which obtains funds from the ministry of health of Portugal. The NHS is mandated with the task of formulating health policies and ensuring that the health sector in Portugal is adequately funded and that health services are distributed equitably (Faria, 2010). The US health care system has numerous players both in the public sector and the private sector. Government agencies involved include Medicare and Medicaid, while in the private sector there are also various players including different health insurance companies (Jonas, 2007).
In the US, there has been a steady decline in the number of nurses and practitioners in the health care sector with the number of nurses declining from 0.0086% in 2008 to 0.006% in 2009. Similar observations have also been made in the number of physicians. Although the number of nurses in Portugal was much lower during the same period, the rate of decline was not as high as the figures in the US health care sector. From 2008 to 2009, the number of nurses in Portugal declined from 0.0032% to 0.0028%. Statistics obtained from Portugal in 2005, however, indicated that there was an increase in the number of physicians to 0.0034% from 0.0028% in 1990 (Johnson& Harriet, 2009).
According to statistics by Johnson& Harriet (2009), accessibility to the health care system in Portugal is much higher than that in the US and most European countries. Johnson & Harreint attribute the observation to a less complex health care system in Portugal as compared to the US.
Faria, P. L. (2010). Medical law in Portugal. London: Kluwer International.
Johnson, J. A., & Harriet, E. (2009). Comparative health systems: global perspectives. New York: Jones & Bartlett.
Jonas, S. (2007). Introduction to the US health care system. New York: Springer.