Americans view universal coverage as a reality only if a minimum benefit package is explicitly defined, and discussions about expanding access take place under the slogan of minimum benefits. The policy environment is different in Canada, Britain, and Germany. There, health care costs are controlled and benefits provided under universal coverage plans. Yet the medical services provided in these countries result not from difficult decisions about rationing care at a “minimum” benefit level but from difficult political decisions about the structure of the health care system. Institutional factors rather than explicit policy influence the implicit health priorities in these countries. The United States, in contrast, develops policies that explicitly designate a minimum level of benefits.

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