The money pit

The Economist‘s most recent daily chart surprised me. From the blurb accompanying the chart: “Comparisons with other rich countries and within the United States show that its [health-care] system is not only growing at an unsustainable pace, but also provides questionable value for money and dubious medical care.”

This runs counter to what I’d always assumed: that the US federal government spent very little on health care, and that the private consumer spent a great deal. Certainly American citizens pay an enormous amount per person, but their federal funds spent per capita is still the highest in the world, odd considering America is notorious for not having socialized medicine. Why is this?

I don’t know the answer, obviously, but I suspect that treating a necessity of life — medical care — as a for-profit enterprise has led to exorbitant prices. Then, if the government increases federal spending to support the poor, injured veterans and so on, they’re throwing good money after bad.

Does a socialized system help prevent that? Maybe. It’s harder to profit from health-care in, say, Canada or the UK than in the US. But I can see why some Americans are so opposed to more federal dollars going into health-care. If it really is good money after bad, then they have reason to oppose spending more tax dollars on it. But the graph above just shows me even proponents of American health-care reform should be opposed to putting more money into the current system.

The reform being discussed isn’t enough. As long as saving lives is a for-profit concern, Americans won’t get their money’s worth.

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