The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The U.S. Spends More, the Population Gets Less

Dec 7, 2009

Every other industrialized country provides medical care practically to its whole population. Yet, all those countries spend less on health care than does the U.S. – much less. This country spent $7,290 per person on health care in 2007, which is about double what Canada, The Netherlands, Austria and France each spent. The U.S. also spends a much bigger share of the total wealth produced in the country on health care than does any other country. According to the OECD, the U.S. spent more than 16% of its gross domestic product just on health care in 2007, while the average for all OECD countries was less than 9%.

The right wing, not able to blow off such facts completely, argues that we spend more because we get more – that is, better medical care.

Yes, for the wealthy, this country provides some of the most advanced procedures and equipment and the most skilled doctors. Operating rooms at the big name hospitals are the envy of the world and draw wealthy people from all over the world.

But that doesn’t translate into good medical care for most of the U.S. population. We have fewer doctors in comparison to the size of the population than does any other industrialized country – only about two-thirds as many. In the U.S. there are too many specialists but an acute shortage of primary doctors, the ones who work to prevent disease and co-ordinate care – the very doctors that most of us need to see.

Of the thirteen richest countries in the world, the U.S. ranked 12, next to last, on the average of 16 indicators of the population’s health. The U.S. is dead last in the rate of deaths in childbirth, and dead last in the rate of infant mortality. Only two of those other countries came in with a lower life expectancy than the U.S. – and that by only a few months!

So, yes, we need health care reform. But to keep in place a system that produced worse results spending more money is nothing but idiocy – and another gift to the medical care industry.