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December 01, 2004



Of course, by taking better care of the small stuff, universal health care diminishes the frequency and severity of the big stuff.

Julian Elson

Well, ya can't have it all. Emotional appeals of "where will the medical system be for you in case of an acute, costly disease?" are legitimate concerns about government-funded healthcare, but that doesn't invalidate the case for it per se: rather, the oppurtunity costs of such ICU treatments must be weighed against the benefits they bring. Universal government coverage is one way, and private markets are another. The current American system has neither, really: it has a lot of semi-blank checks. I think Bush is trying to address this by reducing insurance coverage, moving it more toward private markets (with some notable exceptions, such as the prescription drug benefit). I'd prefer to move it in the opposite direction, with minimal, low cost-benefit ratio, universal government coverage for everyone, but with basically unregulated insurance companies operating providing more full coverage, but allowed to price-discriminate among patients on the basis of risk more freely than now.

Phil Hunt

According to Nationmaster, French people live for 79.3 years, which is 2.1 years longer than Americans live. I know which I'd prefer.

Julian Elson

Bear in mind, Phil Hunt, that some of that difference is due to French lifestyle differences that have little or nothing to do with the medical system per se, such as more exercise, better nutrition, etc.

Then again, the French also smoke more.


The lifespan figures for the U.S. also lump together the insured and the uninsured. A better comparison to make would be between insured Americans and their European counterparts. One would also wish to adjust for the behavioral factors mentioned in the comment above.

Alon Levy

Given that the American system includes uninsured people, I don't see what the point of excluding them is.

Now, on the one hand, a difference of two years is trivial. On the other, in terms of costs, health spending in the USA is far greater than in Europe. In absolute terms, spending in the USA is 4,499 dollars per year, more than in any other country in the world (#2 is Switzerland at 3,161). In relative terms, again the USA leads, with 13.1% of GDP spent on health, although Lebanon is a closer second at 11.2%. In Britain the figure's 7.3% = $1,804, and in France it's 9.5% = $2,380. That's 5% of GDP that could be spent on tax cuts, bombing another random country, more corporate welfare...

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