Monday, September 05, 2005

Burning issues in public policy: health care in the U.S.

Since the New Orleans debacle has put poverty and social services back into the public eye, this is a good opportunity to discuss America's dysfunctional health care system. Malcolm Gladwell has written a short essay discussing some of the shortfalls of the U.S. health care system here.

Selected quote:

Americans spend $5,267 per capita on health care every year, almost two and half times the industrialized world’s median of $2,193; the extra spending comes to hundreds of billions of dollars a year. What does that extra spending buy us?

Americans have fewer doctors per capita than most Western countries. We go to the doctor less than people in other Western countries. We get admitted to the hospital less frequently than people in other Western countries. We are less satisfied with our health care than our counterparts in other countries. American life expectancy is lower than the Western average. Childhood-immunization rates in the United States are lower than average. Infant-mortality rates are in the nineteenth percentile of industrialized nations.

Doctors here perform more high-end medical procedures, such as coronary angioplasties, than in other countries, but most of the wealthier Western countries have more CT scanners than the United States does, and Switzerland, Japan, Austria, and Finland all have more MRI machines per capita.

Nor is our system more efficient. The United States spends more than a thousand dollars per capita per year — or close to four hundred billion dollars — on health-care-related paperwork and administration, whereas Canada, for example, spends only about three hundred dollars per capita. And, of course, every other country in the industrialized world insures all its citizens; despite those extra hundreds of billions of dollars we spend each year, we leave forty-five million people without any insurance. A country that displays an almost ruthless commitment to efficiency and performance in every aspect of its economy—a country that switched to Japanese cars the moment they were more reliable, and to Chinese T-shirts the moment they were five cents cheaper—has loyally stuck with a health-care system that leaves its citizenry pulling out their teeth with pliers. (emphasis added) |New Yorker|
I never use the phrase socialized medicine anymore, since the spectre of socialism is the kiss of death for any public policy measure in the good ol' USA.

Rather I refer to a single-payer health care system, which is nerdy, but less perjorative.

Thanks to Lei for the link.

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