The Real Crisis

Paul Krugman deserves kudos today for trying to turn attention toward the true long-term domestic crisis facing the US today: its horrible health care system. One of his central points is this:

[T]he U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I’ve encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn’t true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country – 75 percent more than Canada or France – yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.

I plan on presenting several different types of data this week about the quality of health care in the US, including different measures of care for the very young and the very old. The data very consistently shows that the US does not have a very good health care system when measured in terms of the health of its people, or when measured in terms of how its citizens feel about the health care they get… and it has a horrible health care system when these mediocre outcomes are juxtaposed with its astronomical costs. For those of you who can’t wait, here’s a brief taste of some of that data that Krugman was alluding to:

Source: OECD.

But this is just a sample; there’s virtually no metric in which the US health care system provides better care than those of other countries, other than in care for the very rich. The reality is that the average person in the US receives mediocre care that is extremely expensive.