If there’s anything we’ve learned from the recent financial crises, it’s that you can’t entrust public welfare to the private sector.
Of course, if health isn’t a public concern, then the government has no say in the matter.
Imho, though, the government should at least take an interest in its citizens’ health. In Germany, every person’s health is protected by law. You are wondering how a law can protect anyone’s health, since pathogens don’t care about laws. The law is what compels everyone who works in Germany to pay into the health system, to finance the War on Pathogens, so to speak. What the government can do, which private health insurances are not at liberty to do, is to charge people according to income. It’s not exactly taxes, because there is a limit to what you have to pay, and if you have a private health insurance, you don’t need to pay the public health insurance. Well, there are different models; a particularly interesting one for people with increased health risks is the complimentary private health insurance.
Because here’s the drawback to the public health system: There are procedures which they don’t cover. Not many, mind you, but they are extremely expensive, and there are people who do need them. A debilitating disease that one in a million people contract – mostly genetically – still yields ~80 patients in Germany, and there are more than one such diseases. There are also numerous heart procedures that are only paid for by the public health system on rare occasions, but because our population is becoming fatter by the hour, the procedures are high in demand.
Another problem with a purely government funded health system is that the government can dictate the rates for medical professionals. Medical doctors study for years, and there are very high dropout ratios. Before they are granted their licenses, they are compelled to work for half a year in a hospital – for free. Medical equipment is expensive, so often they rent it instead of buying it. Just recently, there was an organ transplant scandal, in which rich people paid to advance in the list for rare organs. It would still happen if medical doctors were paid more money for their jobs, but the temptation would be lower.
There is no such thing as an ideal solution, but I believe the German solution is a good one. I’m not all too familiar with the USA’s solution, only that if you’re out of money, you’re out of luck.