Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Once again on health care

Ezra Klein restates the obvious:

Republicans have a plan that has been tried repeatedly but that has never worked. Democrats have a plan that might work in theory, but it is untested at the scale they’ll need for it to work in practice. And both parties are too scared to talk about the only plan that has worked. . . .

Everyone knows — or should know — that the United States spends much more than any other country on health care. But the Kaiser Family Foundation broke that spending down into two parts, the government’s share and the private sector’s share (both measured as a percentage of total gross domestic product), then compared the results with figures from 12 other countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And here’s the shocker: Our government spends more on health care than the governments of Japan, Australia, Norway, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Canada or Switzerland.

Think about that for a minute. Canada has a single-payer health-care system. The government is the only insurer of any note. The United Kingdom has a socialized system, in which the government is not only the sole insurer of note but also employs most of the doctors and nurses and runs most of the hospitals. And yet, measured as a share of the economy, our government health-care system is the largest of the bunch.

And it’s worse than that: Atop our giant government health-care sector, we have an even more giant private health-care sector. Altogether, we’re spending about 16 percent of the GDP on health care. No other country even tops 12 percent. Which means we’ve got the worst of both worlds: huge government and high costs.

This is where a “serious conversation” on health-care costs would start — with what has worked, and what we can learn from it. Instead, it’s where our conversation about health-care costs never quite goes.

Go, Vermont, go!

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