Reality Check – Countering Health Care Myths

T. R. Reid, writing for the Washington Post, addresses five myths about health care around the world.

Read the whole thing.  It’s worth your time.  I was surprised by a number of things, but this struck me most:

U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world; they spend roughly 20 cents of every dollar for nonmedical costs, such as paperwork, reviewing claims and marketing. France’s health insurance industry, in contrast, covers everybody and spends about 4 percent on administration. Canada’s universal insurance system, run by government bureaucrats, spends 6 percent on administration. In Taiwan, a leaner version of the Canadian model has administrative costs of 1.5 percent; one year, this figure ballooned to 2 percent, and the opposition parties savaged the government for wasting money.

The world champion at controlling medical costs is Japan, even though its aging population is a profligate consumer of medical care. On average, the Japanese go to the doctor 15 times a year, three times the U.S. rate. They have twice as many MRI scans and X-rays. Quality is high; life expectancy and recovery rates for major diseases are better than in the United States. And yet Japan spends about $3,400 per person annually on health care; the United States spends more than $7,000. [emphasis mine]

All this while “In Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don’t bother to make an appointment”.

We like to believe we have the best health care in the world, but the statistics say otherwise.  Perhaps this article should be required reading for every Congress member who’s out there trashing “foreign” systems.

h/t Alabama Moderate in comments at Left in Alabama

3 Responses to “Reality Check – Countering Health Care Myths”

  1. Del says:

    If you don’t read the whole thing, here is the one important sentence. It’s on the third page and I’m afraid people won’t see it.

    The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.

    I suspected this was the case, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it baldly stated that way.

    I don’t understand how real reform, reform that will provide good care for everybody without bankrupting the country, can happen without basically putting health insurance companies out of business. The people running these companies are not stupid or poor businessmen. I think they see the end coming, and I am afraid that they are simply trying to wrangle the biggest (tax-funded) bonanza they can get before that end arrives. Perhaps, like the tobacco companies, they will be able to diversify and stay afloat that way. But I hope all the folks who currently are earning bonuses for denying claims and running the rescission team are smart enough to start looking for another job. Wait, on second thought, I don’t give a damn about them.

  2. Well, that being said… I’ve talked to a few friends and guildies in-game on World of Warcraft who actually LIVE in those countries. It’s not that they’re not allowed to make a profit in those countries so much as that can’t be the ruling factor on whether or not they provide coverage. These companies actually DO make a profit– just not as much.

    Take Germany for example, where the government acts as a middle man through which employers provide private plans. (This is actually very similar to HB3200 AND the way the FEHBP works.) Insurers are not allowed to drop coverage or deny claims and have to do so in a speedy manner. Employees are also allowed to purchase that same plan should they lose that job. Plans are completely portable, and they’re provided by private companies.

    Anyway, they make sure that these companies cover EVERYONE, and it provides them with a good pool of healthy patients to counter the cost of the sick. Couple that with government incentives based on quality of service, and that’s how they’re able to run.

  3. Sorry… That should have said that they are required to pay claims in a speedy manner. I just re-read that, and it came out totally wrong.

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