In 2009, Barack Obama got down to reforming the health care system. The goal was not to establish universal coverage, like in Canada, but to make insurance accessible to everyone. He argued in favour of a “public option,” a State-funded system that would compete with private insurance companies.

72% of Americans support the public option
- New York Times poll, June 2009

Rather than present his own plan, the President decided to allow Congress to reach a bipartisan consensus. But the debates soon turned nasty. On the left, supporters applauded the reform plan, criticizing a system that placed Americans' survival in the hands of private insurance companies. On the right, opponents argued the government was taking over the health care system.


“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's ‘death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care.” - Sarah Palin, from Facebook

By the Numbers
  • 2,600billion
    Annual costs
  • 17.9 %
    Share of GDP spent on health
    (the highest rate in the developed world)
  • 7,960 $
    Total health expenditure per capita
    (1st out of 27 OECD countries)
  • 3,794.90 $
    Public expenditure per capita
    (3rd among 28 OECD countries)
  • 78.2years
    Life expectancy
    (25th among 32 OECD countries)
  • 62.1 %
    of personal bankruptcies are attributable to medical costs. Three-quarters of these bankruptcies affect Americans who have insurance.
    Sources : Kaiser Family Foundation (2010), OCDE (2009), The American Journal of Medicine, New York Times
Americans' Health Insurance
Americans' Health Insurance
Photo Gallery
Opposing Viewpoints
Learn more