What's wrong with our system? Check this graphic from the National Geographic blog. It shows compares health care spending per person, annual doctor visits per person, and life expectancy in countries with universal health coverage (whether publicly or privately funded) and countries without.
The developed countries listed spend an average of just under $3000 per person on health care. Their citizens live to an average age of 79.2. There's no great American exceptionalism on life expectancy: we clock out at a respectable 78—although 45,000 of us die early each year because we lack insurance. But we distinguish ourselves in the other categories depicted in the graph. We are one of only two countries without universal health coverage—the other is Mexico. We go to the doctor less than everyone except the Mexicans, the Swiss, and the Swedes.
And what do we pay for less access to the doctor and shorter lives than the Portuguese? $7290 per person.
Who says Americans are smart shoppers?
More notes on why health care reform won't be anywhere near done after the current bill passes:
- 63% of staph infections in the U.S. are nasty antibiotic-resistant strains. Such cases cost us $6 billion and 19,000 lives a year. The Norwegians have figured out how to knock antibiotic-resistant staph infection rates down to 1%: require doctors to prescribe fewer antibiotics and isolate infected patients and staffers. It also helps to give workers paid sick leave and ban drug advertising.
- From the same story, who's leading the way in the U.S. in fighting such infections? Government-run health care: VA hospitals have adapted the Norwegian model and achieved a 50% decrease in MRSA bloodstream infections.
- Read Adam Geller's AP report on Remote Area Medical's efforts to bring free medical care to some of our fellow Americans whom we would otherwise leave to suffer and die. Read it, then go look RAM founder Stan Brock or his patients in the eye and tell them America has the best health care in the world.
Update 2010.01.04 10:50 CST: See also this graphic of America's status as the outlier on wasteful health care spending (Andrew Gelman, via Decorum Forum).
Update 2010.01.05 10:10 CST: Make that $7700. That's how much Americans spent per person on health care in 2008.