Sunday, April 17, 2005

Paying retail for healthcare

Americans pay double what Canada and France due for health care. And astoundingly the US government alone already contributes more to this cost per capita than either of those countries. And yet in the US infant mortality is higher and life expectancy is shorter. We are obviously not getting the most bang for our healthcare bucks.

Paul Krugman, in his continuing view of the broken American health care scheme has some suggestions as to why:

Why is the price of U.S. health care so high? One answer is doctors' salaries: although average wages in France and the United States are similar, American doctors are paid much more than their French counterparts. Another answer is that America's health care system drives a poor bargain with the pharmaceutical industry.
Doctors overpaid? I'm willing to argue that another time. Big pharma gougeing us? No surprise there. Congress has been in their pockets for years.

But the big offender? Money quote here:
Above all, a large part of America's health care spending goes into paperwork. A 2003 study in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that administrative costs took 31 cents out of every dollar the United States spent on health care, compared with only 17 cents in Canada.
Nearly a third of medical spending goes to cover admin? Sure. Think of all those medical insurance companies with their presidents and CEOs and vice-presidents of marketing all doing the same jobs as all the other presidents and CEOs and vice-presidents of marketing ad, almost, infinitum.

And it doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to see that as long as corporations can turn a profit of the sick and dying prices for US healthcare will continue its exorbitant growth.

[UPDATE] Kevin Drum has some very interesting observations on American healthcare satisfaction:
In America, where the elderly are covered by a national system and others aren't, the elderly are more satisfied [than the general population] by a whopping 27 percentage points.

Second, even the poor are more satisfied with their healthcare than the rest of us. The poor generally rely on a combination of Medicaid, emergency rooms, and free clinics for their healthcare, a system that's hard to beat for sheer inefficiency and appalling service. But even at that, the rest of us, who are mostly covered by employer-provided health insurance, are less satisfied than the poor. The system of health coverage provided to the vast majority of American citizens is so bad that we like it even less than the jury-rigged system the poor are forced to use.
Hmmm, now why IS that?

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