by revere, cross-posted from Effect Measure

The idea that if the United States joins the rest of developed nations and finally adopts a universal health care system it will bankrupt itself is not based in reality. The reality is that the US spends a larger proportion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than any other developed nation. By far. Not even close. CDC has just documented it from data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2008 health data yearbook (statistics and indicators for 30 countries). It suggests we are being bankrupted by our lack of a universal health care system:

CDC’s laconic commentary:

In 2006, the United States devoted 15.3% of its GDP to health-care spending (i.e., health goods and services plus health-care infrastructure). Seven other countries devoted >10% of their GDP to health-care spending: Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Austria, and Canada. Five countries devoted <7% of their GDP to health-care spending: Czech Republic, Mexico, Korea, Poland, and Turkey. (MMWR, CDC)

Countries whose technical level of medical care is at or above the quality of the US’s (although most people in the US don’t have access to the best care), indeed devote sizable proportions of their GDP to health care (greater than 10%), but still significantly less than the US. For most health indices they are also doing much better for their people than the US.

The simple truth is that one of the major reasons we have such a lousy health care system and receive such bad value for our money in the US is that we placed health care financing into the hands of the same folks who helped make our economic system such a disaster: private insurance companies, who are little more than disguised investment banks with the added incentive not to pay back their depositors (the premium payers).

We don’t need health care reform with a public option. We need one with public financing by default, perhaps with a private option for those who wish to and can pay extra for it.