uniquely american

Richard Schwartz of New York's Daily News helps New Yorkers kick off "Cover the Uninsured Week". (Thanks ALPF. I went back to the source.) In "One Nation, Uninsured," he writes:
The U.S. spends 15.5% of its gross domestic product on health care, about $1.7 trillion a year. No other country comes close. Yet for all that money - equal to the entire economic output of France - approximately 45 million Americans go without health insurance.

By the way, in France, which on a per capita basis spends about half what we do on health care, everyone is insured. In fact, under France's universal health system, patients can visit doctors, even specialists, virtually any time they wish.

That explains why thousands of New Yorkers will be converging at scores of sites across the city today to kick off "Cover the Uninsured Week," a nationwide effort to focus attention on the millions of uninsured Americans.

It's a uniquely American event, since in the rest of the industrialized world, where universal coverage is the norm, health care is considered a basic human right. But in the 50 United States, I guess health care is a frill. It shows. We're only No. 22 among industrialized nations in life expectancy (77 years). Japan is No. 1 at 81 years. We're No. 25 in infant mortality rate (6.8 infant deaths per 1,000 births). Sweden leads with only 3.5 deaths per 1,000.

. . .

Think shifting health spending entirely onto the shoulders of Uncle Sam won't make a difference? Wrong. National health would save us nearly $250 billion a year on administration alone. That's the difference between the 20% we spend on administration versus the 4% to 7% nations like France, Britain and Canada spend.
A columnist for the Daily News is making a pitch for single-payer! If I didn't know better, I'd call this a tipping point. But since I do, I'll just thank Mr Schwartz for covering the event.


David Cho said...

Even though I am against a single payer system, I still have deep a lot of trouble with the concept of making money off health care which is why I turned down lucrative opportunities in the health care industry (I'm a computer programmer). Of course I have no qualms about becoming rich off people's discretionary spending habits such as entertainment, but the matter of life and death isn't discretionary.

But still, a complete takeover by the federal government scares me given it's track record on public schools, welfare, etc. etc. Well, not starting a debate here, but it scares me.

(BTW, my distrust of government was a huge reason behind opposing the Iraq war. Why my fellow conservatives who often share my distrust all of a sudden trust the incompetent US federal government to magically create a democracy in an Islamic society is beyond me)

laura k said...

"But still, a complete takeover by the federal government scares me given it's track record on public schools, welfare, etc. etc. Well, not starting a debate here, but it scares me."

Then fortunately for you, you have nothing to worry about. National health insurance isn't even under discussion anymore.

By the way, the federal government doesn't run public schools. Public schools and what remains of welfare are run on the state level.

laura k said...

Also David, that's a very good point re Iraq. I often say that about the death penalty.

Rognar said...

This may sound strange coming from a self-described conservative, but in my experience in a country where many things are run by the state, I find that the government is not especially incompetent at management as compared to the private sector. There are many things that could be improved with our health care system, but private health care wouldn't make a bit of difference. I'm on record stating my admiration for many things about the USA, but the health care system most assuredly is not one of them.

laura k said...

Rob, you make a great point there. The efficiency of the private sector is often a myth. OTOH, Social Security - for example - has been an incredibly efficient and viable system in the US, run entirely by the federal government.

One thing I value about the wmtc circle: they (we) are all independent thinkers. People who evaluate situations and think for themselves, as opposed to toeing the party line.

Rognar said...

I believe that really important things, like health care, should stay in the hands of government because it is, at least theoretically, answerable to the public, whereas companies are really only answerable to the shareholders. Unfortunately, here in Canada, the government has a tendency to get its hands on all sorts of things best left to the private sector, like airlines and oil companies. Crown corporations, as we call them, are wonderful things when they're profitable, but when the economy is bad, the taxpayers are left to make up the shortfall.

David Cho said...


"whereas companies are really only answerable to the shareholders"

I spent 8 years working for a major oil company. It was my first job straight out of school. I witnessed the shift away from actually caring about employees and customers to answering only to Wall Street. It was not a pretty sight, leaving me very much disillusioned with Big Business which I have come to believe is only slightly better overall than Big Government. But the difference is looking more and more negligible to me.

Right now in California, there is a huge push by environmental agencies to issue fines to polluters not because of significant increases in pollution (in fact, air quality has steadily improved over the past 30 years), but to make up for short falls in their budgets since the state is broke. Of course oil companies use that as an excuse along with other things for high gas prices.

Big Business and Big Government .. they often go hand in hand. What a love story. Pass me the Kleenex.