While some in Congress are busy trying to eliminate what they perceive as “the dark side’s” effort to improve American healthcare, it appears they didn’t do much research to back up their positions.
In 2014 the Commonwealth Fund published (an update to) a study looking at how the U.S. healthcare system compares to other developed nations. The results aren’t great.
In case you have never heard of this fund, their website says:
The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.
The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy. An international program in health policy is designed to stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialized countries.
While the French tend to love their healthcare system, it didn’t really perform substantially better than the American healthcare system, using this survey’s criteria, but they spent a whole lot less money doing it. The winner in overall this healthcare ranking was . . . Great Britain! By a long shot.
At the time of this study, we were spending $8,745 per person on American healthcare (currently updated to $9,146). Great Britain spends $3,289. Here are some interesting facts showing what would happen annually, if we could deliver healthcare at the same cost as the UK, based on their system:
- We would save $1.7 trillion per year. Yes, that is TRILLION!
- 24 million fewer adults would have to wait 6 days or more to see a doctor or a nurse. We have less access to rapid medical care
- 78 million fewer adults would go without care because of the cost
- 14 million fewer adults would visit an emergency room, as they would be able to go to a regular doctor
- 38,000 fewer preventable deaths would occur per year
- 8,300 fewer infant deaths would occur annually. The U.S. ranks dead last on infant mortality, and second-to-last on healthy life expectancy at age 60.
One of the most notable differences between the U.S. and most other developed countries is in our lack of universal health insurance. Undoubtedly, this arises from the American rugged individualist culture. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t change in the face of compelling evidence of the public good that would arise.
Healthcare and especially American healthcare is not a”normal” economic good. Price doesn’t affect demand. If people need it to live, they will tend to buy it so companies can overcharge until competitors emerge. This causes all sorts of price and market distortions. It is precisely this type of good that makes a good case for government oversight.
Links to the information in this blog: