The Disaster of America’s Healthcare System

The Disaster of America’s Healthcare System January 8, 2020

Two economists. Anne Case and Angus Deaton (the latter a Nobel Prize winner), detail the disaster of America’s healthcare system. The US spends more than any other nation on health care and gets worse health outcomes by almost any measure. They say this amounts to an $8000 annual tax on American families, for which we get less.

The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world, costing about $1 trillion more per year than the next-most-expensive system — Switzerland’s. That means U.S. households pay an extra $8,000 per year, compared with what Swiss families pay. Case and Deaton call this extra cost a “poll tax,” meaning it is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay. (“Polle” was an archaic German word for “head,” so the idea behind a poll tax is that it falls on every head.)

Despite paying $8,000 more a year than anyone else, American families do not have better health outcomes, the economists argue. Life expectancy in the United States is lower than in Europe.

“We can brag we have the most expensive health care. We can also now brag that it delivers the worst health of any rich country,” Case said…

After looking at other health systems around the world that deliver better health outcomes, the academics say it’s clear that two things need to happen in the United States: Everyone needs to be in the health system (via insurance or a government-run system like Medicare-for-all), and there must be cost controls, including price caps on drugs and government decisions not to cover some procedures.

Why do Americans tolerate this appalling reality? Ignorance and apathy, mostly. And those who are most negatively affected are also the most powerless to change things. There are powerful interests with nearly unlimited money to spend to preserve the status quo that is making them rich. The entire insurance industry simply should not exist. It adds a layer of bureaucracy and profit-taking that is totally unnecessary. But they are very powerful and can buy off politicians to make there is no meaningful reform passed.

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