at the New York Times
has sparked a discussion about healthcare in the US. There are a number of interesting points here, but by far the most fun part is the stark contrast between the bizzarro world of US healthcare and socialized systems around the world.
The Angry Bear is following up on this with some interesting commentary and statistics
. The US is far and away the outlier in terms of spending and aggregate quality of healthcare. It spends more and achieves less than anyone else. In terms of the major statistics (infant mortality, life expentency, expenditure per capita, expenditure as % of GDP) Canada fits in pretty well with the other five countries Angry Bear lists: France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Australia.
Kevin Drum points us to a funny anecdote
by Matt Welch on the superiority of the French system and the ignorance among Americans about this.
"Wait a minute wait a minute," one guy said. "If you were sick -- I mean, really sick -- where would you rather be? France or the U.S.?"
"Um, France," we both said.
Various sputtering ensued. What about the terrible waiting lists? (There really aren't any.) The shoddy quality? (It's actually quite good.) Finally, to deflect the conversation away, I said "Look, if we made twice as much money, we'd probably prefer American health care for a severe crisis. But we don't, so we don't."
Drum also presents us with a helpful 'original position'
-type thought experiment. Imagine you're creating a national health care system from scratch.
You can go the socialized route, or...
Choice #2 is this: if you're employed, your employer might provide you with healthcare coverage of some kind. Anytime you change employers or your employer changes plans, your coverage and your doctor will change too. If you're unemployed, or you work for Wal-Mart, you get nothing — though in a pinch you can always show up at an emergency room, which is perhaps the most expensive way of delivering healthcare known to man. If you're poor, there's a shabby government program that will sort of cover your kids, but probably not you. If you're over 65, another government program will cover some but not all of your medical expenses. And all of this will cost us about 14% of GDP, far more than any other industrialized country on the planet.
How is it that healthcare is the number one issue time and again in Canada but barely shows up on the American radar? It's especially surprising given facts like this (from the Krugman piece):
General Motors now spends about $1,500 on health care for every car it produces.