Health care vs health care systems

When I say the U.S. has an awful health care system, one of the most common rebuttals is to point out all our great technology. Why, anybody in the world would prefer to have a major medical procedure done in an American setting versus just about any other location. That’s true enough. Our technology is fantastic, and even though our educational system leaves much to be desired, we do have many great doctors, both those bred at home as well as those who come from abroad. But that isn’t what I mean when I talk about our health care system. I’m talking about the way we deliver care, the type of care available to the average citizen, and the cost of that care. Our technology may be wonderful, but that doesn’t mean anything if it costs us exorbitant sums to get it to the average person. Take a look at these two charts:

Of the Western nations surveyed, we spend more than anyone else. Yet in terms of efficiency, we’re ranked 17 out of 19. That’s pitiful.

via PZ.

13 Responses

  1. Interestingly, Germany and Switzerland, 2 and 3 in spending are also way down where we are.

    Seems to me that there may be other issues besides evil insurance companies and such here.

    It’s also interesting to note that because the vast overwhelming majority of other countries fix prices, we here in the US have to make up the difference. (if they started price fixing here as well, there would be very very few medical advances made indeed)

    It’s a more complex issue than those graphs represent and might I say that death ratios are a pretty poor indicator of the health of a country. At least when you are comparing countries who are up in the 70’s for lifespan.

  2. Of course it is also illegal to turn away people in need of lifesaving care, even if they can’t pay or outright refuse to, no one goes without care if they really desire to get it.

  3. Yes, they can get it when they’re at their most desperate, when it costs the absolute most to finally intervene. Great idea.

    It’s true that we have impressive medical techology available to anyone who can pay for it. That’s why rich people from around the world fly here to take advantage of our fantastic medical offerings for the rich. And they pay top dollar for those services! Yessir, what a great system.

    Unless you’re not rich, of course… but then, that’s your own fault. Right?

  4. I’m not entirely sure how GDPHE is calculated – PZ described it as lives saved, which implies this doesn’t simply reflect fat Americans dying of heart attacks and car crashes more often.

    It bothers me when people on the right respond to criticism of our health care system by saying its the best in the world and it shouldn’t be changed. Of course it should be changed, its very expensive and wasteful and needs a major overhaul.

    The difference here is I see it as a heavily-regulated oligarchy, and all of President Obama’s reforms have just made it more of a corpratist, including what he did last week. Health care is getting more expensive because of intervention, not greed.

  5. I’m not saying it is the best system, but in so far as people needing treatment are able to get it, we don’t have a big problem there. I I think “lives saved” must be something like “jobs saved”, Michael.

    Now that you have relieved your pathological need to attack rich people for something, copyleft, can you move on the the real consumers and over consumers? “Middle class” workers! The ones with the best health plans, the ones that use the system the most and get the most benefit.

    I’m not shitting on them, but a lot of over consumption goes on. Coupled with US subsidies of the rest of the world, with us being the last place without price fixing and massive government meddling and intervention as other Michael points out, yo can see the root of the problem begin to appear.

  6. It’s also interesting that right in the study the author says that the USA:

    is a continent and on a range of socioeconomic and health factors there is considerable variation between the States, not least marked ethnic variations. Although most Western Countries have regional economic variations, few have the variation of, for example, California, which is larger than many Western countries.

    That is a big issue that Europe’s countries don’t have to deal with on the same scale.

  7. “you can see the root of the problem begin to appear.”

    Yes… and the root is insufficient government ‘meddling,’ as you call it. Keeping healthcare in a free-market system, as if it were just another consumer commodity, is beyond insane. Middle-class workers are certainly not “sitting pretty;” they’re paying through the nose to beg for overpriced insurance coverage that applies insufficient coverage to overpriced procedures.

    Over-consumption is far from the problem–and isn’t that something the free market should welcome with open arms? Seems like they’re unable to handle it instead. Just chalk it up to another market failure and pretend that any alternative HAS to be worse, like a good libertarian.

  8. Very nice, if you think of an actual argument, please feel free to type it out.

    What you are saying is that the government hasn’t mandated enough? Controlled enough? Banned enough? Approved enough?

    I think you are making the mistake, like a good liberal, of assuming that we can perfect a system. Indeed even improve one. There is nothing less adaptable to changing circumstances than a government.

  9. Of course there’s something less adaptable; there’s a market.

    “What you are saying is that the government hasn’t mandated enough? Controlled enough? Banned enough? Approved enough?”

    Yes, that is indeed what I am saying. And I’m sure that makes no sense to an anarchist, libertarian, or similarly deluded government-hater. But your inability to understand is not my responsibility.

  10. “Keeping healthcare in a free-market system, as if it were just another consumer commodity, is beyond insane. ”

    Copyleft, I really don’t think you understand this issue. This is not even close to a free market system – its one of the most controlled industries in the country. How do you justify repeating this interpretation over and over again?

  11. If you’d never been exposed to a national healthcare system, I can see why you’d think ours is too tightly bound up with government. But the sad fact is, people are on their own for medical care in the U.S.; they’re lucky if they can find an employer who offers it as a “benefit,” they have to go through third-party, for-profit insurance companies, and costs are constantly skyrocketing. And STILL millions of our fellow citizens have no coverage and no access to preventive care–the point at which healthcare is most effective AND least costly.

    When it comes to healthcare, we pay more and get less for our money than any other civilized nation on Earth. The mountain of regulations and controls are a result of trying to prop up the unworkable consumer-market model of healthcare, rather than recognizing the obvious and switching to universal coverage.

  12. I’ve been in government health care my entire adult life. First in the Army, and now with the VA. Let me tell you, there is no comparison as far as level of service and quality of care. The horrifying system we currently have is superior to the mess the government has created for military and vets, if they regulate it further, just hope they don’t recycle ideas.

  13. Copyleft, I agree with have a poor system, but that has NOTHING to do with a free market – and that is the claim you made.

    “The mountain of regulations and controls are a result of trying to prop up the unworkable consumer-market model of healthcare, rather than recognizing the obvious and switching to universal coverage.”

    It sounds like you’re backing away from you “free market” claim, but can’t you just come out and say it?

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