The most important graph in health-care policy

at 03:38 PM ET, 07/05/2011

The Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation has a much prettier version of what is, to my thinking, the most important graph in health-care policy: It shows that we pay more than any other health-care system and, to add insult to injury, have ended up with more government than most of our competitors, too. It’s the worst of both worlds: a government-run health-care sector that is larger than the international norm, a private health-care sector that’s vastly larger than anything else out there and vast inefficiencies caused by the overlap and poor coordination between the two.

I’m sympathetic to the point of view that it’s worth paying a premium for choice, for decentralization, and to make sure there’s space for future innovation in health-care coverage and pricing mechanisms. None of that’s worked out very well so far, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be important in the future. That said, if you compare our health-care spending to the OECD average, you get a yearly premium of 7.9 percent of GDP, or $1.1 trillion, not to mention a larger government-funded health-care sector. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe our system is worth that sort of extra expense, do you?

Related: The hard truth about health care.

 
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