OGDEN -- Nearly 50 million Americans do not have any health insurance and roughly 22,000 of them die every year from treatable diseases because they can't afford to go to a doctor.
Other countries fare much better, but if the U.S. doesn't make health insurance coverage a moral issue, things aren't going to change much for the good.
That was the message T.R. Reid gave to physicians and other health care workers on Wednesday during the 67th annual Ogden Surgical Medical Society conference.
Reid, a journalist for the Washington Post and author of the best-selling book "The Healing of America: A global quest for better, cheaper and fairer health care," traveled the world investigating health care systems.
He found that other rich, industrialized countries face many of the same problems as America, but they have found a way to cover everybody with health care and spend far less doing so.
As a bureau chief for the Post in several different countries, Reid said he and his family sought medical care for various ailments.
"You pick your doctor, you pick your clinic, there are shorter waiting times and the bill gets paid," Reid said. "I wanted to find out how everyone was being covered at a fraction of the cost of our country ... so I started looking at all of the health care systems of these rich, industrialized democracies."
Reid said most of the countries provide health care under one of four models. Great Britain uses the Beveridge Model, where the government owns the hospitals, labs and clinics. General practitioners are private, but they bill the government. There are no premiums, no co-pays and no doctor bill.
"Does that sound like socialized medicine?" Reid asked. "Probably, so this must be bad, right? Except it covers everyone and costs less. The Brits also have just about the same outcome as us, and they have a slightly higher life expectancy. It worked fine for me and my family."
The Bismarck model was founded in Germany. It also covers everyone but uses private hospitals, doctors and insurance plans. The cost is taken out of several different funds. Germany's first chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, also invented the welfare state in the 19th century.
The third model is National Health Insurance, or the Douglas Model, named after socialist Tommy Douglas. This model, used in Canada, uses private-sector providers paid from a government-run insurance program that all citizens pay into.
The fourth model is the Out of Pocket model, which is simple, Reid said. You don't have the money, you don't get treated.
"It's simple and blunt and a fact of life," Reid said.
Reid said America has a little bit of each of the four models. However, because so much money is spent on administrative costs and paperwork, Americans pay more than twice as much in health care costs.
"So, why does one size fit all in some of these countries? I went around and asked why everyone was treated the same and the answers were that if everyone is in the same system, it's vastly simpler to manage," Reid said. "It's also vastly cheaper. No one is turned away. No one is denied and in some countries, the health insurance company is required to pay the doctor within three days."
Reid said if a country makes a moral commitment to the health of each citizen, then it has a fair system.
"If that country does not make a moral commitment, then they may end up with the finest care, 49.9 million people barely able to get in the door and 22,000 dying every year from preventable diseases," he said.
"In other words, if a country doesn't make a moral commitment, then it ends up with the American health care system."