US Healthcare Expenditures Unacceptable
A report on January 7th in The New York Times announces what is supposed to be good news. US healthcare spending only rose moderately, or “modestly” as The Times puts it, in 2012, proving that Obamacare has not significantly impacted healthcare spending. The stats the Times quotes are from a new study that appeared in the journal Health Affairs. According to The Times, “As a share of the economy, health spending declined slightly, to 17.2 percent in 2012, from 17.3 percent in the prior year. For decades, health spending has grown faster than the economy, taking a bigger bite out of workers’ wages and the federal budget.”
This is supposed to be good news. Instead, it’s really outrageous news. As is news that some Americans of modest means are spending up to $12,000 or more for their healthcare under the new healthcare law. We need to get some perspective on these figures by looking at what the per capita spending of other OECD countries on healthcare. Only then do we see how out of line health spending is in the US. According to data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, here’s what most other nations spent on healthcare per capita in 2010. Denmark $4467, $3997, Germany $4342, the Netherlands $5112, Norway $5391, Sweden $3760, France $3997, Switzerland $5297, Japan $3120. All of these countries have better health statistics than the US. The Netherlands — one of the best and most effective healthcare systems in the world, which has essentially fixed the MRSA problem in its hospitals, spends $3878 less per capita than we do. Norway and Sweden, which both have extraordinary health systems with amazing care for the elderly, spend, respectively, $3599 and $5230 less than we do. When you have an illness in France, no matter what your income, the doctor will make a house call and the state will help you renovate your apartment or home if you have a serious disability — all this for $4993 less per capita then we spend. In none of these countries does a person risk losing their home if they get ill or going personally bankrupt because of healthcare costs, as is true in the US, where more than 60% of US bankruptcies result from medical bills. The study reporting on personal bankruptcies was done by Harvard Medical School researchers David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler.
So my question is, how is it a “reform,” when people are spending $8990 or even more for healthcare under healthcare reform? Why should anyone spend a penny more than they are spending and how are we finally going to deal with a healthcare system in which costs are out of control — even if only “modestly?”