Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 8, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

HEALTHCARE IN AMERICA....Healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, but there's an interesting twist to the statistics:

Health spending accounts for nearly 15 percent of the nation's economy, the largest share on record, the Bush administration said on Thursday.

....Public spending on health care accounts for 45 percent of all health spending in the United States, compared with a 72 percent average in O.E.C.D. countries. But health spending has outpaced economic growth in most of those countries, putting pressure on government budgets.

The government already pays for 45% of healthcare costs in America, which means that public healthcare spending accounts for 45% of 15% of GDP, or 6.75%.

In other western countries healthcare costs are about 10% of GDP, which means that public spending accounts for about 72% of 10%, or 7.2%. That's barely more than we spend in percentage terms and less than we spend in actual dollars per person. And by most conventional measures they deliver care that's as good or better than ours. For everyone.

Now, our higher costs are partly due to the fact that we're richer than most other countries and choose to spend more of our income on healthcare. But that's not the whole story, and these figures suggest that if we had a rational public healthcare system in the United States we could fund it for barely more than we spend now.

Think about that: it wouldn't cost much more than it does now; if it were decently designed it would almost certainly do a better job of holding down costs than the ridiculous patchwork that we have now; corporations could largely get out of the healthcare business; everyone would be covered; and judging by the experience of European systems it would deliver care about as good as we get now. Hell, maybe better if my doctor is anything to go by.

And of course private care would still be available for anyone who wanted to pay extra to get it. So what's not to like?

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's socialism. But wouldn't it be nice if we could put the scary namecalling aside and instead just work together on building a real healthcare system to replace the creaky, dysfunctional, and out of control one we have now?

Kevin Drum 10:23 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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