Good Argument for Socialized Medicine

How do the countries of the rest of the industrialized world manage to provide health care for all of their citizens for 9 or 10 percent of GDP while the United States spent 17.3 percent of GDP in 2009, and is on track — even with the current proposals under consideration — to reach as much as one-third of GDP by 2050?

The answer, as Robert Kuttner explains, is “universal, socialized insurance.”

Apparently, in the rest of the “club of affluent countries” (excluding the US), national policy embodies the wisdom that an unregulated market is moderately efficient at producing profits but not at producing a fair distribution of social goods.

Kuttner explains:

In all of the debates about health care reform, one of the stubborn realities is that neither the Obama plan, nor any of the Republican alternatives, will seriously alter the trajectory of relentless cost-escalation in health care. If you look at the Administration’s own projections of federal deficits in the next decade and after 2020, virtually all of the alarming growth in deficit spending is Medicare and Medicaid.

… The consensus among the usual policy experts is that there is no good solution. The march of technology and demography will just continue to raise health costs.

But you can reach that conclusion only by ignoring how the rest of the club of affluent countries manages to insure everyone for 9 or 10 percent of GDP, and have a healthier and longer-lived population, to boot. They do it, of course, through universal, socialized insurance.

… The Canadians do it with a single payer system for the insurance part, but physicians are private. The Brits have an integrated National Health Service. The Germans achieve near-universal coverage through a system of nonprofit health insurance plans.

What every other nation has in common is that they have taken the commercialism out of their health systems. As a consequence, they can direct health spending to areas of medical need rather than letting the market direct health dollars to areas of greatest profit. And with everyone covered, they can use highly cost-effective strategies for prevention, wellness, and public health. That’s how you cover everyone for ten percent of GDP.

Kuttner has become uncharacteristically pessimistic. He feels that Obama has pretty much blown his best chance to succeed at health care reform.

Read the full article here: “The Cure That Dares Not Speak Its Name.”

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