Health Care Spending: International Comparisons
Matthew Yglesias notes the following expenditures for health care for different countries.
- United States: $5,267 on health care/ $2,364 is government spending.
- Canada: $2,931 on health care / $2,048 is government spending.
- France: $2,736 on health care / $2,080 is government spending.
My question is so what? Do the above numbers take into account what basically amounts to a large subsidy that many countries benefit from when it comes to pharmaceuticals? Does it take into account differences in populations? For example certain segments of the population tend to suffer from certain diseases such as sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease. Not to mention that Americans are some of the fattest people on the planet. What about issues like violence such as gun violence. Do these things increase health care expenditures or are they all trivial (and another possibility is that while each one is individually small in its impact is the combined effect significant)? What about differences in laws and medical policies. For example, how do other countries catagorize and treat premature/low birth weight babies? Are they treated the same as here in the U.S.? In the U.S. these babies are treated as live births and many of these children fight mightily (and consume large amounts of health care resources) and die. A double whammy from the perspective of gross aggregate statistics in that both health care expenditures go up, as does the infant mortality rate. Similarly for the eldelry. Do any of these European countries have assisted suicide laws that could also result in lower health care expenditures?
The point is that such comparisons of gross statistics as this could be quite misleading. Spouting out these numbers as if they show us something is at best misleading and at worst is intentionally dishonest. How come the supporters of socialized medicine never report things like wait times for various procedures? I bet France is pretty good, because from what I’ve read their system is pretty good (but many people in France also pay a fair amount out of their own pocket). Also, what about success rates for various procedures? What is the survival rate for various heart operations in the U.S., Canada, France and yes even Sweden? Maybe the U.S. ranks low in these areas too, but shouldn’t we look at the statistics on these things as well?
As for the French system and paying out of pocket, I’ve read where often the out-of-pocket expense can often be 30% or more (for example, some prescription drug plans cover only 35% of the costs). Gee could this be a factor in keeping health care expenditures low? Here in the U.S. people like to get as much as they can for as little as they can when it comes to health care (and who wouldn’t?). So, people like a health plan that costs their employer quite a bit, but also has “free” eye-care so they don’t have to pay for glasses. Of course, this is “free” to the employee either, but the perception is that it is and with the way employer provided health care works it subsidizes those who needs glasses at the expense of those who don’t. But the bottom line is that there is little out-of-pocket expenditure. Could this be one factor in driving up health care expenditures?
This kind of brain dead comparison across countries isn’t really that helpful. The implication of these simpleton posts is that if we simply switched to the same system as the French we could save $2,500/year and that isn’t chump change for most of us. But does this have to be the case? Does it even have to be the case that we’d save $1/year? This is ultimately the real question (from a utilitarian/money stand point) and these kinds of moronic posts don’t even come close to answering this question.