U.S. Health Care: Still in Crisis

April 11th, 2005 – 9:57 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Today Paul Krugman started a series of columns about the crappy U.S. health care system (and what can be done to fix it):

Finally, the U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I’ve encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn’t true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country – 75 percent more than Canada or France – yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.

This last point is, in a way, good news. In the long run, medical progress may force us to make a harsh choice: if we don’t want to become a society in which the rich get life-saving medical treatment and the rest of us don’t, we’ll have to pay much higher taxes. The vast waste in our current system means, however, that effective reform could both improve quality and cut costs, postponing the day of reckoning.

To get effective reform, however, we’ll need to shed some preconceptions – in particular, the ideologically driven belief that government is always the problem and market competition is always the solution.

The fact is that in health care, the private sector is often bloated and bureaucratic, while some government agencies – notably the Veterans Administration system – are lean and efficient. In health care, competition and personal choice can and do lead to higher costs and lower quality. The United States has the most privatized, competitive health system in the advanced world; it also has by far the highest costs, and close to the worst results.

Over the next few weeks I’ll back up these assertions, and talk about what a workable health care reform might look like, if we can get ideology out of the way.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of what he has to say, even though, as he points out, in the current political climate it’s unlikely that anything will actually get done.

Over at Angry Bear, Kash adds some healthcare numbers of his own.

[via Atrios]

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