Stossel on Why the US Health Care System is the Best and How It Can Be Better

Why does Greg Mankiw think John Stossel knows anything about economics:

But there’s less to these studies than meets the eye. They measure something other than quality of medical care. So saying that the U.S. finished behind those other countries is misleading. First let’s acknowledge that the U.S. medical system has serious problems. But the problems stem from departures from free-market principles. The system is riddled with tax manipulation, costly insurance mandates and bureaucratic interference. Most important, six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness. As Milton Friedman always pointed out, no one spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Even with all that, it strains credulity to hear that the U.S. ranks far from the top. Sick people come to the United States for treatment. When was the last time you heard of someone leaving this country to get medical care? The last famous case I can remember is Rock Hudson, who went to France in the 1980s to seek treatment for AIDS. So what’s wrong with the WHO and Commonwealth Fund studies? Let me count the ways. The WHO judged a country’s quality of health on life expectancy. But that’s a lousy measure of a health-care system. Many things that cause premature death have nothing do with medical care. We have far more fatal transportation accidents than other countries. That’s not a health-care problem. Similarly, our homicide rate is 10 times higher than in the U.K., eight times higher than in France, and five times greater than in Canada.

Stossel links to a 215 page study and he takes one aspect out of the study to ridicule. Life expectancy is one factor to look at but clearly it is not the only factor that the WHO and other studies consider. Stossel should realize this if he bothered to read these studies. And as he bashes the WHO, he offers no evidence in return for his suggestion that the US health care system is not as inefficient as others claim.

But you say he did acknowledge that we could do better. OK – and his policy is what? Getting rid of insurance? The mind boggles.