Many of you liked my slides on quality. I had updated them for a class I teach on Health Policy Economics. This week’s lectures are on cost. So enjoy these. As usual, these are OECD data.
The first is the total cost of the health care system in US purchasing power parity:
As always, the US is that bright red line. If you’ve been paying attention at all, it shouldn’t surprise you that the US spends more per person than any other country in the world. What may surprise you is how much more. It’s 2-3 times what comparable countries are paying. Keep in mind that a significant number of people in the US get no health care at all, which lowers the average spending per person. And for all that money, our quality is middling at best.
Now, it’s reasonable that the US should spend more in total per person. We have more money. But let’s look at it on a more level playing field. How much money do we spend as a percentage of GDP compared to other countries?
That’s… not good. Almost one sixth of our economy is spent on health care. More, again, than any of these other countries. Do you think that we might be in a better economic state if we had some of that money to spend on other things? Maybe pay down the debt? Or, if you prefer, lower taxes?
Speaking of which, one of the favorite memes of those opposing reform is to say that other countries pay much higher amounts in taxes for health care. That’s what “we” want to avoid. So let’s look at how much public money (taxes) we spend on health care:
See the red line? The one at the top? That’s the United States. We already spend more public money – more tax dollars – per person on health care than any other country in the world. We already fund the most expensive public health care system. Right now.
So not only do those other countries spend less than we do per person, they spend less tax dollars per person.
Well, if our system is that expensive, it must be at least covering everyone, right? No? Then it must have unequivocally the best quality in the world, right? No?
Isn’t this money then sort of wasteful? Wouldn’t a fiscal conservative want to reign in that spending? Find a better, cheaper way to do it?