U.S. Health Care System Not Sick


The U.S. medical system is hugely expensive and is not providing as good care to its citizens as socialized systems are in Canada and Europe -- that will be a chief argument the Obama Administration employs to justify its new government health insurance plan for the 46 million Americans who are uninsured. Don't believe it, says Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine; instead, read the new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), entitled: "Health Care Reform: Do Other Countries Have the Answers?''

Does the United States spend too much on health care? According to the NCPA:

--When comparing apples with apples and stethoscopes with stethoscopes, the reality is that in most areas -- other than diagnostic equipment and research on new medicines -- the United States actually does not devote more resources per capita than do socialized nations.

--But the United States compares favorably when real resources are measured rather than monetary accounts; countries account for long-term care and out-of-pocket spending differently, so the accounting treatment of overhead and capital costs also varies.

--Moreover, the United States has been neither worse nor better than the rest of the developed world at controlling expenditure growth; our outlays grow at the same pace as everyone else's.

--In certain areas, such as medical diagnostic equipment, we do have greater spending; Britain has only a fraction of the number of CT and MRI scanners per patient population that the United States has.

U.S. cancer patients have much better survival rates than do those in Europe. Moreover, the way in which other countries save money is by cheating their patients of care, says the NCPA:

--International spending comparisons typically ignore costs generated by limits on supply.

--Dialysis patients in 2002 -- 2004, for instance, had to wait 62 days for access in Canada versus 16 days in the United States.

--Waiting lists for elective surgery, such as hip replacement, are notoriously long in other countries.

--These delays don't show up in spending for health care, but waiting for care has economic costs in terms of sick pay and lost productivity, as well as negative health consequences.

Source: Steve Forbes, "Don't Doc American Health Care," Forbes Magazine, May 25, 2009.

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