Friday, November 08, 2013

Healthcare in the US - twice the price

I often hear people saying, "Healthcare is too expensive!" Sometimes they mean it costs a lot, and sometimes they mean it is dragging the US down.  Both of those are correct. What they usually propose to do about it is ration it, largely by not allowing poor people to have any health care. This is not correct.

The US spends twice as much per capita on healthcare as countries like Canada, The UK and Australia. The US government spends as much per capita as the UK government spends on socialized medicine. And then private payers spend about as much again.

Life expectancy is no better in the US that in similar countries.

So, 50% of healthcare costs are for no reason - just structural inefficiencies. Build a proper healthcare delivery system and half of the costs vanish. It doesn't seem hard, and yet it brings out the crazies en masse. My opinion is that this is because in the US it's more important to punish the poor for being, y'know, useless than it is to build a society that can take care of its own. Mostly I think because "society" is obviously socialism. It's practically the same word!

I recently had a boss who had run big hospital groups and health systems and he predicted that when US healthcare hits 20% of GDP (i.e. one in every five dollars is spent on healthcare) the country would collapse. It's currently around 17% of GDP. The rise is slowing a bit, but not it's not going in the right direction.

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(Cropped, originally from Top Foreign Stocks.)


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Cost rising out of control in the US, not so much elsewhere. (From Daily Kos.)
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 One healthcare outcome - life expectancy. (From UC Atlas)

Or maybe it's the fat people they want to blame. Whatever, it has to be someone's actual fault, not a structural weakness in the system, hasn't it? (This is sarcasm.)

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