Salon series tackles global health care

On Sunday, Oct. 5 a group of students met with three faculty members to participate in the Keene State College Salon Series: Health Care in the USA and Beyond.

The forum took place in conference room 309 where 18 students gathered around pizza to discuss health care.

The session highlighted the differences between health care systems across the globe, and featured panelists from Canada, Spain and the United States.

Carolyn Keller, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, led the conversation for the salon session. Keller began by explaining, “The KSC Salon Series aims to promote informal and collegial conversations between faculty, students and community members.”

Keller opened the conversation with United States health care system. “Based on the most recent data available so from 2010 and 2013, you will see that of those countries the United States comes in overall last.”

Keller continued, “Comparatively the United States not only failed at giving health care to everyone equally, but also spends more on health care than any other country.”

Philip Bergeron / Graphics Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphics Editor

Keller also explained how the United States scores last in healthy living and in the efficiency of the health care system according to calculations from the Commonwealth Fund. The Commonwealth Fund is a, “A private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults,” according to its website.

However the United States is not bad at everything. Keller stated, “There are things we are good at. Generally speaking we have more access to high tech capacities. We are also good at cancer [treatment]. The five-year survival rate is higher in the United States than in the other countries listed.”

Keller then introduced William Bendix, assistant political science professor. Bendix said he has lived in both Canada and the United States and was able to compare and contrast the two systems.

“The really big difference [between the United States and Canada] is that you never really think about cost. You never call anyone to see ‘Is this procedure covered,’” Bendix said.

Bendix added, “There is an ease with which you can rely on the health care system in Canada that doesn’t exist here even when you do have excellent health care coverage through an employer. There is a simplicity and an accessibility in the Canadian system that I see as a big benefit.”

Bendix did admit that the Canadian system has faults as well. Bendix stated, “Income taxes in Canada, as well as other taxes are higher as well.”

Shortcomings of the United States health care system also include the speed at which services are rendered. “It isn’t perfect, it’s far from perfect. One fault is the speed with which services are provided. If there is an emergency you are taken care of as quickly as you would be in the United States however people wait very long times for non-emergency procedures,” Bendix explained.

Bendix also added that the Canadian health care system handles prescription coverage differently than the United States. “Seniors have access to prescription drugs, they are paid for by the government. When you hit sixty-five [years-old] then the provincial government cover your prescription drugs, when you are under sixty-five [years-old] its a private cost. You may have additional private insurance that covers prescription drug cost, or you just pay for it out of pocket,” Bendix said.

The final panelist to speak was Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Rafael Ponce-Cordero, who was able to speak about the health care system in Spain, where he lived for some time.

Ponce-Cordero explained how even though affluent Spanish citizens can go to private clinics, those patients often use public institutions regardless. “The interesting case in health care and in medication is that most people choose, if you need the thing right away and its a simple thing you go to the private sector but if it is really chronic condition you go to the public sector. Even if you go the private they redirect you to the public sector because they have the big machines,” Ponce-Cordero expanded.

Allison Picone, a KSC sociology major, found the session to be informative,  “This is really interesting to me because I want to be a social worker. This will help me, especially with low-income families. I found it interesting that we are supposed to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world but we have the crappiest health care.” The KSC Salon Series will continue on November 2 at 3 p.m. The second meeting will feature “people will be here from Rwanda to talk about health care in their county,” according to Keller.


David Walsh can be contacted at

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