by revere, cross-posted from Effect Measure

The idea that if the United States joins the rest of developed nations and finally adopts a universal health care system it will bankrupt itself is not based in reality. The reality is that the US spends a larger proportion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than any other developed nation. By far. Not even close. CDC has just documented it from data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2008 health data yearbook (statistics and indicators for 30 countries). It suggests we are being bankrupted by our lack of a universal health care system:

OECD.health.expenditures.jpg

CDC’s laconic commentary:

In 2006, the United States devoted 15.3% of its GDP to health-care spending (i.e., health goods and services plus health-care infrastructure). Seven other countries devoted >10% of their GDP to health-care spending: Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Austria, and Canada. Five countries devoted <7% of their GDP to health-care spending: Czech Republic, Mexico, Korea, Poland, and Turkey. (MMWR, CDC)

Countries whose technical level of medical care is at or above the quality of the US’s (although most people in the US don’t have access to the best care), indeed devote sizable proportions of their GDP to health care (greater than 10%), but still significantly less than the US. For most health indices they are also doing much better for their people than the US.

The simple truth is that one of the major reasons we have such a lousy health care system and receive such bad value for our money in the US is that we placed health care financing into the hands of the same folks who helped make our economic system such a disaster: private insurance companies, who are little more than disguised investment banks with the added incentive not to pay back their depositors (the premium payers).

We don’t need health care reform with a public option. We need one with public financing by default, perhaps with a private option for those who wish to and can pay extra for it.

Comments

  1. #1 Heidi
    April 14, 2009

    Absolutely right. I will add that many of us, who do have several insurance choices via the workplace, often choose the less expensive insurance option even when a higher quality one is available to us. We choose it because a higher quality health option is often out of financial reach.

    The last statement at the end of your post is well taken. The argument against universal health care is often based on loss of quality and based on the assumption that the majority of health care delivery is of superior quality. This can’t be true because many people choose a lower-cost option which is often lower quality. For example, I work at a quality health care institution, but I can not afford the higher insurance cost to utilize that health care.

    We shouldn’t just point to the amount of uninsured as a compelling reason for universal coverage because there is so much more evidence starting us all in the face.

  2. #2 Liz
    April 14, 2009

    Good point, Heidi – and with so many people facing financial problems now, more of those with insurance are starting to skip prescriptions and doctor visits because they struggle to make the copayments.

  3. #3 Don Margolis
    April 17, 2009

    Of course you are correct, but it is worse than you think, Liz, much worse, if you don’t mind my going beyond the limited concept presented. The reason why we have the worst medical system in the developed world is not merely because we do not have universal care, but because the system has been intentionally changed starting in 1962 from “care” to “profits.” Here are the rules:
    1–There are five major profiteers, none of which have any concern for patients:
    Big Pharma, Big Device companies, Big HMOs, Big Insurance, Big Academic Research.
    2–Anyone who dares to threaten these profits is easily handled by every multi-national corporation involved with the help of profiteering “scientists.”
    3–Every minute of every day of every year, an American dies of “Medical Care,” NOT from the disease for which he/she is being treated.
    4–No Cures Allowed—only pretending that they are looking for one is. 80% of Americans believe their lying president and their lying media that embryonic stem cells will someday cure something….you probably do too. The only reason for embryonics is to divert attention from profit-destroying adult stem cells, now successfully treating 150 diseases everywhere but in the Pharma-controlled world. Embryonics, like their 25-year pretend “search” for an AIDS cure, will never never happen—it is 21st century alchemy…but I’ll wager the majority of YOUR friends believe otherwise.
    To summarize, universal healthcare will not change any of this, but it WILL reduce profits, so it can never happen as long as the profiteers own the White House (no matter who lives there), both sides of the aisle in both houses of congress, and absolutely control the NIH and the FDA as their personal flunkies.