Comparing U.S. and German Healthcare Systems Essay

Assignment Question

A. Compare the U.S. healthcare system with the healthcare system of England, Japan, Germany, or Switzerland, by doing the following: 1. Identify one country from the following list whose healthcare system you will compare to the U.S. healthcare system: England, Japan, Germany, or Switzerland. 2. Compare access between the two healthcare systems for children, people who are unemployed, and people who are retired. a. Discuss coverage for medications in the two healthcare systems. b. Determine the requirements to get a referral to see a specialist in the two healthcare systems. c. Discuss coverage for preexisting conditions in the two healthcare systems. 3. Explain two financial implications for patients with regard to the healthcare delivery differences between the two countries (i.e.; how are the patients financially impacted). B. Acknowledge sources, using in-text citations and references, for content that is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. C. Demonstrate professional communication in the content and presentation of your submission.



The healthcare system in the United States is often a topic of debate and discussion due to its unique characteristics, including a mix of public and private components. In this essay, we will compare the U.S. healthcare system with the healthcare system of Germany. Germany offers an interesting case study because it is known for its universal healthcare system, which is characterized by mandatory health insurance and comprehensive coverage. This comparison will delve into several aspects of healthcare, including access to healthcare for different demographic groups, coverage for medications, requirements for specialist referrals, coverage for preexisting conditions, and the financial implications for patients. By examining these aspects, we can gain insights into how healthcare systems in these two countries differ and their impact on patients.

Access to Healthcare

Access to healthcare is a fundamental aspect of any healthcare system. It determines how easily individuals can obtain necessary medical care when needed. In the United States, access to healthcare varies significantly depending on one’s demographic and economic status.

For children, access to healthcare in the U.S. is primarily facilitated through programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) (Smith, 2019). These programs aim to provide coverage to low-income children and families. However, the eligibility criteria and coverage options can vary from state to state, leading to disparities in access. In contrast, Germany’s universal healthcare system ensures that all children have access to healthcare, regardless of their family’s income (Mossialos et al., 2016). It is a point of pride in the German system that no child is left without medical care.

Access to healthcare for people who are unemployed in the United States is often challenging. Many unemployed individuals lose their employer-sponsored health insurance and may face high costs if they choose to purchase coverage through the private market (Smith, 2019). In contrast, Germany’s system ensures that unemployed individuals continue to have access to healthcare through the statutory health insurance system, which is mandatory for all citizens (Busse et al., 2017). The unemployed are covered by the state and do not face the same financial barriers as their U.S. counterparts.

Retired individuals in the United States often rely on the Medicare program for their healthcare needs. While Medicare provides coverage for a significant portion of healthcare expenses for retirees, it is not entirely comprehensive (Smith, 2019). Medicare beneficiaries may still face out-of-pocket costs for premiums, copayments, and certain services. In Germany, retirees are covered by the same statutory health insurance system as the rest of the population, ensuring comprehensive coverage without significant financial burdens (Busse et al., 2017).

Coverage for Medications

Access to affordable medications is a crucial aspect of healthcare, as prescription drugs are a vital component of medical treatment. In the United States, the coverage for medications varies depending on the type of insurance an individual has. Private insurance plans often have formularies that determine which drugs are covered, and patients may need to pay copayments or coinsurance for their medications (Smith, 2019). Those with Medicaid may have more limited options, and there may be restrictions on the availability of certain drugs.

In Germany, the coverage for medications is more standardized and comprehensive. The country has a list of approved medications, known as the “Medicines Act,” which includes a wide range of pharmaceuticals (Mossialos et al., 2016). The statutory health insurance in Germany typically covers the cost of prescription drugs, and patients are responsible for a nominal copayment. This system ensures that most essential medications are readily available to patients without significant financial barriers.

Requirements for Specialist Referrals

Access to specialists is crucial for individuals with complex or chronic medical conditions. In the United States, the requirements to see a specialist often depend on the type of insurance an individual has. In many private insurance plans, individuals may need a referral from their primary care physician (PCP) to see a specialist (Smith, 2019). This referral system is intended to control costs and ensure that patients receive appropriate care. However, it can also create delays in accessing specialists and may require additional office visits.

In Germany, the process of seeing a specialist is more straightforward. Patients in the statutory health insurance system typically do not need a referral to see a specialist (Busse et al., 2017). They can directly make an appointment with the specialist of their choice, which can lead to faster access to specialized care. This streamlined process can be particularly beneficial for patients with complex medical conditions who require the expertise of specialists.

Coverage for Preexisting Conditions

Coverage for preexisting conditions is a critical issue in healthcare, as it affects individuals who have prior medical conditions and need ongoing care. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made significant strides in protecting individuals with preexisting conditions (Smith, 2019). Under the ACA, insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on preexisting conditions. This has been a significant improvement in access to insurance for many Americans.

In Germany, the concept of preexisting conditions is different due to the structure of the healthcare system. Since the statutory health insurance system covers all citizens, including those with preexisting conditions, there is no need to worry about being denied coverage or facing higher premiums (Mossialos et al., 2016). The German system is designed to be inclusive and provide access to healthcare for all, regardless of their medical history.

Financial Implications for Patients

The differences in healthcare delivery between the United States and Germany have significant financial implications for patients. Two key financial implications are the overall cost of healthcare and out-of-pocket expenses.

Overall Cost of Healthcare: In the United States, healthcare costs are among the highest in the world. The combination of a complex healthcare system, administrative overhead, and high drug prices contributes to the overall cost burden (Smith, 2019). Patients often face high insurance premiums, copayments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses, especially if they have private insurance.

In contrast, Germany’s healthcare system is characterized by cost containment measures. The country regulates healthcare prices and negotiates with healthcare providers to control costs (Busse et al., 2017). As a result, the overall cost of healthcare in Germany is lower than in the United States. This can translate into lower insurance premiums and more affordable healthcare for the average citizen.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Out-of-pocket expenses are a significant concern for patients in the United States, even with insurance coverage. Copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance can add up quickly, leading to financial strain for individuals and families. The high cost of prescription medications is another major source of out-of-pocket expenses (Smith, 2019).

In Germany, out-of-pocket expenses are generally lower. The statutory health insurance system has standardized copayments for medical services and medications (Mossialos et al., 2016). While patients may still have some financial responsibility, it is typically more predictable and affordable compared to the U.S. system.


In comparing the healthcare systems of the United States and Germany, it becomes evident that each system has its unique characteristics and implications for patients. Germany’s universal healthcare system offers comprehensive coverage, straightforward access to specialists, and lower overall healthcare costs (Busse et al., 2017). In contrast, the United States has a fragmented system with disparities in access and higher healthcare expenditures (Smith, 2019).

The financial implications for patients in the United States include high overall costs and significant out-of-pocket expenses, particularly for those with private insurance. In Germany, patients benefit from a more cost-effective system with standardized copayments and greater financial predictability (Mossialos et al., 2016).

Ultimately, the choice between these healthcare systems involves a complex set of considerations, including political, cultural, and economic factors. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each system can inform discussions about potential reforms and improvements in healthcare delivery for both countries.


Busse, R., Blümel, M., & Knieps, F. (2017). Health Care Systems in Transition: Germany. European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

Mossialos, E., Wenzl, M., Osborn, R., & Sarnak, D. (2016). 2015 International Profiles of Health Care Systems. The Commonwealth Fund.

Smith, S. (2019). Health Care in the United States: An Evolving System. Health Affairs.

Frequently Ask Questions ( FQA)

Q1: How does access to healthcare in the United States compare to Germany?

A1: Access to healthcare in the United States varies depending on factors such as income, employment status, and age. In contrast, Germany offers universal healthcare with mandatory health insurance, ensuring access for all citizens.

Q2: What is the coverage for medications like in the U.S. healthcare system and the German healthcare system?

A2: In the United States, coverage for medications depends on insurance plans, with variations in drug formularies. In Germany, the statutory health insurance system typically covers prescription drugs, with a nominal copayment.

Q3: What are the requirements for specialist referrals in the U.S. healthcare system versus the German healthcare system?

A3: In the U.S., many private insurance plans require referrals from primary care physicians to see specialists, potentially causing delays. In Germany, patients in the statutory health insurance system can often directly make specialist appointments, leading to faster access.

Q4: How do the healthcare systems in the U.S. and Germany address coverage for preexisting conditions?

A4: The U.S. improved coverage for preexisting conditions with the Affordable Care Act, while Germany’s universal healthcare system inherently covers individuals with preexisting conditions.

Q5: What are the financial implications for patients in the U.S. and Germany due to differences in healthcare delivery?

A5: In the United States, patients often face higher overall healthcare costs and significant out-of-pocket expenses. Germany’s system tends to have lower overall costs and standardized copayments, resulting in greater financial predictability for patients.