What’s Wrong with the World

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Per Capita Public* Health Care Spending...

...in OECD countries, as of 2004 (the latest stats I can find for free), according to the Congressional Research Service:

Luxembourg: $4600
Norway: $3312
Iceland: $2778
United States: $2728
France: $2477
Sweden: $2398
Denmark: $2388
Switzerland: $2381
Germany: $2340
Canada: $2209
Belgium: $2164
United Kingdom: $2164
Australia: $2106
Ireland: $2064
Netherlands: $1895
Italy: $1853
Japan: $1833
Finland: $1712
New Zealand: $1612
Spain: $1485
Portugal: $1335
Czech Republic: $1214
Greece: $1142
Hungary: $917
Korea: $591
Poland: $552
Slovak Republic: $686
Mexico: $307
Turkey: $418

Got that? The good old U.S. of A. is already the worlds fourth biggest public-spender on health-care - trailing only a handful of European countries with a combined population well under that of greater Chicago.

Of course, our measly $2728 per capita per year covers less than half of our population. While, from what I hear, France's munificent $2477 per capita per year covers pretty much everybody.

* * * * *

So what's up with our existing public health-care system? Why hasn't it, through its delightful combination of public-spiritedness and administrative savings, long ago consigned all private competition to the dustbin of history?

And just exactly how much more (?!) money does it need, to provide Americans with European-style coverage at European-style prices?

Just wondering...

* * * * *

*This is PUBLIC health care spending only. For some strange reason that...ummm...entirely escapes me...ummm...

...where was I?

...the Congressional Research Service does not report these figures directly. You have to work them out for yourself. But it's easy enough: just go to Table 1 and multiply "Health care spending per capita" by "Percentage of health care publicly financed."

Comments (17)

Great. Luxemberg has, what, five people in the country - actually, I attended a conference, there, a few years, ago. I was the only person in the church at daily mass in one of the churches I attended :( A nice Catholic country, but it is small.

Per capita spending doesn't mean a whole lot. Look at the percent of gross domestic income for health services. As such, I suspect the U. S. is much closer to the bottom.

The Chicken

MC: I suspect that you suspect wrongly. In fact, I more than suspect that.

Look it up.

In France, you buy a supplemental private plan on top of the government plan, and good luck seeing a doctor without it. But, assuming you got the supplemental, no English/Canadian style wait times!

Oh, and if everybody in the US was eligible for Medicare, everybody would have it, thus overwhelming the system Cloward-Piven style. It'd kill private insurance, and Medicare would cut people off far more often than private insurance because it's harder to raise taxes to meet needs than to raise premiums to meet needs. Either that or you couldn't see a doctor without a Medigap a la France.


You wrote:

MC: I suspect that you suspect wrongly. In fact, I more than suspect that.

Does that mean you super-suspect that :)

You are probably right. I haven't crunched any numbers, just making a totally unfounded knee-jerk reaction. Don't I get one free one per day?

The Chicken

Nobody says the US does not spend enough. What they say is they don't take care of the poor. That the worst off in the US are far worse off than the worse off in other 1st world nations.

What I wonder about is the percentage of the population that is over 65. As that increases the same level of care will cost a lot more.


That's because Medicaid is a horrible program. Reihan Salam had an idea to fix it...


I'm not sure what your point is.
US spends more money on health care by a wide margin than anybody else. Even US public spending on health is among the top 5.

Unfortunately, we have little to show for all this spending. Most of top developed countries have longer life expectancy then US. Yes, even Canada that is daily described as health care desert by "conservatives" on radio and TV, has 2 years longer life spans than Americans.

Even if we take only whites in the US and compare with Euros and Japan, we still do not look good.

So we have status quo that is outrageously expensive and produces mediocre results. It is being defended by the stupid party and corporate "conservatives" as a best health care in the world (why? where is the proof?).

And on another side we have the evil party and Marcusian president. Their only goal is to establish government control of US health care industry, probably almost doubling the scope of the government in one fell swoop.

There is nobody who is trying to rationalize the outrageous system that si status quo.

I think that the problem is that nobody really knows what a good system actually looks like. From the stories we hear about France, Canada and UK, those aren't so hot. Does anyone propose a national system in the world that (1) costs a reasonable amount, (2) makes quality care available to all, (3) makes care available quickly, without excessive waiting, (4) does not ration out care by saying "we deem you not worthy of care in this instance", and (5) promotes advances in health care? Oh, and (6) allows you to pay for care outside of the national system? That's just a lot to ask for any system. We don't know how to get all of these desired features: to pay for 2 - 6, you have to go in for too much money, failing #1. So then, which of features 2 - 6 do we give up, to be able to afford the whole? If you pick any one of 2 - 6 and say we will live without that, and you stick a knife in a significant segment of the population.

We are surprised that public health care costs are so high because our Gnostic, mal-educated society, of which we are a part, is unable to understand the limits of human finitude and physical reality and therefore believe it is possible to have an efficient and effective centralized health insurance and healthcare bureaucracy for a nation of 300+ million people as if it were no different than Singapore.

I read on FPR, FPR for crying out loud, a serious suggestion that we import a health insurance bureaucracy from Australia, a country with less than 30 million people, with no apparent changes. I hear similar foolish suggestions on copying European models, in spite of their documented failures, unsustainability and the differences in population size.

Because, apparently, these things do not matter. Scale doesn't matter because corruption does not exist. The centralization of political power, money, and now healthcare/insurance is wise because our idealism allows us to ignore the actual realities of our emotive, short-sighted, entitlement-driven consumer society and the despicable baby-boomer politicians and bankers running it. We are not wise enough to do this, even if it were a good idea, which it isn't.

The fact is that our nation will only be ready for a centralized healthcare system after it has undergone a transformation in its education systems and a wiser generation of citizens who are able to care wisely and intimately for people they've never met nor will never meet has been raised. If such an absurdly Gnostic "transcending" of our humanity is even possible, which I doubt. We should be talking about education more.

Till then, I feel like I'm having the "Should we support the bank bailout and stimulus package?" debate again, wherein supporters of federal action were consequently shocked, just shocked! at the abuses of ideals that followed. Let us not be useful idiots again, lest we find that we've allowed Peter Singer to be appointed to the chairmanship of the Federal Council on Medical Provision.

Sorry for the rant, but this is infuriating.

Albert: please do rant all you like. It is music to my ears.

Mick: isn't it obvious? My point is that those who believe (or claim to believe) that the inefficiency of America's healthcare system is primarily due to the excessive role of the private sector, and that we will get more bang for our buck under a more socialized system, are either dreaming or lying through their teeth.

They should stop fretting about stuff like the relatively high administrative costs of private insurers and start trying to figure out why the existing public system here does so poorly with the gigantic resources it's already got.

Randy writes: "Nobody says the US does not spend enough. What they say is they don't take care of the poor." I reply: but Randy, you surprising man! Given that the our public system already spends more per capita than, say, France, why doesn't it *already* "take care of the poor" at least as well as, say, France?

If you needed a surgery in which you only were given a slim chance of survival (but you would die anyway), what country's surgeons would you want performing the operation?

Meritocracy has a price and that is why our healthcare is expensive.

Also, no one is ever refused healthcare in America. Go to any hospital and find out. This whole debate is ridiculous.

Healthcare was much cheaper and easier to access before government and government regulation got involved.

"Great. Luxemberg has, what, five people in the country - actually, I attended a conference, there, a few years, ago. I was the only person in the church at daily mass in one of the churches I attended :( A nice Catholic country, but it is small.

Per capita spending doesn't mean a whole lot. Look at the percent of gross domestic income for health services. As such, I suspect the U. S. is much closer to the bottom."

The United States spends 16% of it's GDP on health care. That's BY FAR the highest percentage in the entire world. The next highest country is Switzerland at 11%.

Great stats. Thank you. Just read an article on Britons defending their national health service. Let's look at Cancer Survial Rates. Cancer survival rates in Britain are among the lowest in Europe according to an article in the telegraph published 21 Aug 2007 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1560849/UK-cancer-survival-rate-lowest-in-Europe.html

Female %
USA 62.9
Iceland 61.8
England 52.7
Scotland at bottom with 48.0

Male %
USA 66.3
Sweden 60.3
Iceland 57.7
England 44.8

According to the article, Cancer experts blamed late diagnosis and long waiting lists. Basically folks...the earlier the detection, the earlier the treatment, the better the outcome.

Why do Canadians come to this country for MRI's? Not enough gov't run scanners. This country it is supply and demand. If there is a demand, then someone will venture to bring in another scanner. Capitalism......

Obama has proven to my and many other's satisfaction that his agenda is to improve the lot in life of the under-represented and less fortunate.
He is a pragmatic incrementalist that knows you cannot define the word improvement without including the word change in its definition.
He is not an idealog (ala Bush) who is promoting one, now debunked, law of the jungle barbaric, and immoral system over another failed system
If you follow the scare tactics of his opposition you will find that it leads to a political or economic agenda and to hell with the public interest.
If you follow the money it leads from the economically devastated lives of those who have had the misfortune to become ill and has lined the pockets of the fat insurance companies who have and embarrassment of wealth.
If we don’t blow ourselves up in the meantime, in 50 or 100 or 200 years, good health care will be a non issue worldwide and it will not be the result of the benevolence of private health insurance companies

Actually, the number for the U.S. you cite is different than the source material. The source material said $6201 per capita for the United States in 2004. In 2007 however, that number went up to $7421.

I had a medical procedure done last year in Germany, and as a US citizen I paid 400 Euros or about $600 at the time. I had the same procedure performed a second time in the San Francisco and the tab came to over $8000 of which I had out of pocket expenses of $2000 including $1300 for an MRI, as my Blue Cross coverage does not pay for "diagnostic tests". I paid $1100 this year for a sonogram at my local hospital, and as this was a "diagnostic test" to see if I had a blood clot, Blue Cross would not pay anything.

For many procedures the best doctors that ordinary people can afford are not located in the USA and so people fly to countries like Germany, France, Argentina, India, Thailand, to get the surgery they need but either they have no insurance or their US health care company will not approve payment. Roughly 15,000 people with insurance died in this country last year with their insurance companies denying treatment. Blue Cross and the other insurance companies rank right up with the tobacco companies in terms of the unnecessary deaths they cause.

One big difference with France and Costa Rica (which has single payer coverage) is that both countries provide a free university education and so they have many more doctors per capita than in the USA. More doctors with more time per patient, and not the 15 minutes which is all USA medical insurance companies will reimburse, equates to better health care.

A second big difference, and it shows with American women over the age of 55 who rank 27th in the world in life expectancy (other stats are heavily influenced by infant mortality and birth rates) is the amount spent on prevention. Countries like Sweden invest heavily in health care studies and programs to minimize the need for medical treatment. With the system in the USA this research is seldom done or is done by big pharma and they only show the results from studies that came out in their favor and demonstrate the benefits of their expensive drugs.

What is seldom mentioned is that we have an entire generation of medical refugees with people traveling to other countries for treatment and many more who will be retiring and moving to countries where the health and medical care is affordable. In the USA we have the best medical care possible for those who are rich and the mediocre or no medical care for everyone else. This week in Inglewood, California people are lining up to receive medical care and be treated in the sports arena on the basketball court. Only one person in 10 that is queuing up will get in as they are limited to 1200 patients per day. These are people who have no other option and anyone who can defend this dereliction of its duties by our government to protect and serve has a belief system that has nothing to do with reality.

sometimes i wonder why people allow all the spam, i mean, these people have no life or something. why do you keep spamming, is it like, some sort of hack or something?

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