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August 21, 2003

Save Money- Eliminate Health Insurers

The US spends $209 billion per year on useless health care paper work-- enough money to provide health care for everyone who needs it if we abandoned our wasteful system of duplicative private health insurance.

So says, a new Harvard Medical School study.

When hands-on medical costs were excluded, the cost of treating a U.S. patient in 1999 was US$1,059, more than triple the Canadian cost of US$307...

For example, one of the biggest U.S. private health plans, WellPoint, looks after 10.1 million customers and has 13,900 administrative staff. By contrast, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers 11.7 million people with about 1,400 employees.

The immediate response will be to cite horror stories from Canada of hospital lines. First, this ignores the better overall health results, but the real problem is that Canada just spends so much less on health care than it should. The system is efficient but underfunded. Americans spend about US$5,600 per patient -- 83% more than is spent in Canada.

But there is no question that the US health care system is the most wasteful health care system in the world.

Guess what-- government bureaucrats are far more efficient than private corporate bureaucrats. That's the basic lesson you learn when you compare the US health care system to government-run systems around the developed world.

Update: On cue at least one comment brought out the Canada horror stories of long lines and less fancy manchines, so instead of looking at atmospherics, let's look at results.

On, infant mortality, according to the American Journal of Nursing, we waste money on lots of extraordinary emergency medicine and not enough on prevention. We don't fund health care adequately for pregnant women, so we end up dumping millions for low-birth weight babies rushed into emergency rooms. And the results are higher mortality rates:

[the United States] has 4.9 times the number of neonatal intensive care beds as the United Kingdom, and the combined number of intensive care and intermediate care beds is twice as large as it is in Australia and Canada. Yet a recent study shows that U.S. infants don't have proportionately better survival rates: the infant morality (the number of deaths in the first year of life per 1,000 live births) and the neonatal mortality rate (the number of deaths in the first 28 days per 1,000 births) are higher in the United States than they are in the other three countries. These findings refute the effectiveness of the current U.S. funding emphasis on neonatal care and make a case for more funding for preconception and prenatal care.
So we spend more, and more babies die.

How conservatives can insist on bragging about US health care is beyond me.

Posted by Nathan at August 21, 2003 01:17 PM