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Sick in America: What Today's Reactionaries Don't Want You to Know

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Headlined to H3 10/22/13

Much of what we hear about health care is pure propaganda with no basis whatsoever in fact.   The purpose of propaganda is to manipulate, not to enlighten or inform, so it's no surprise that the partisan fight over health care in Congress has generated more heat than light.   The baleful effect is to deceive and thereby perpetuate the status quo -- and an ever-greater inequality that threatens to destroy the fabric of our society. 

  From 2013_07_140003 US medicine
2013_07_140003 US medicine by Gwydion M. Williams

Among the false impressions created by libertarians, FOX news, and reactionaries of all stripes is that Americans far more freedom to choose physicians, hospitals, and treatments than people in Europe and other advanced societies with single payer systems.   Most anyone who has lived abroad and experienced a single-payer system in operation knows that's simply not true.   Nor is it true that people in these countries get less personalized attention from doctors than we do.   (Ask anybody who's spent a few days in a hospital lately how much time the doctor spent with them.)   It's what the Corporatocracy tells us, and many of us are only too eager to believe, but it's not true.  

The US is NOT the leader in health care in the modern world.  

In fact, the US is not even in the Top Ten. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the health care system in the US ranked 38th in the world in 2000.   If you're thinking that was over a decade ago, maybe we're doing better now, think again.

Americans DO NOT LIVE LONGER than people in many other advanced countries.

Don't trust UN figures?   How about Bloomberg?   According to a Bloomberg study of the most efficient health systems in the world, the US ranks 46th, just below Iran (oops!) and just above Serbia.   Among the top ten (Hong Kong, Singapore Japan, Israel, Spain, Italy, Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, and Sweden),   life expectancy is significantly higher (and infant mortality is lower), as it is in the UK, Austria, Canada, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece, and Germany, among others.   Amazingly, getting better results costs a lot less in these countries than we have to shell out.

Medical treatment in the US is BY FAR THE MOST EXPENSIVE in the world.  

Health care costs in US account for over 17% of total GDP every year -- roughly $2.7 trillion in 2012.   By itself, that's a very big number, as big as the entire GDP of France and bigger than Brazil's, but it takes on a whole new meaning when compared to what people in other advanced societies spend on health care and what they get in return.    Among the top ten most efficient health care systems in the world, health care costs as a percentage of GDP ranges from a low of 3.8% in Singapore to a high of 11.5% in Switzerland.   The average for the top 25 countries, all of which rank above the US in health care efficiency, is 6.54%.   That's 6.54% of GDP for a better result than we get in the US spending 17.2% of GDP.

   On a per capita basis, we don't fare any better.   Canada, for example, devotes 10.8% of GDP to health care, or $5,630 on average.    The per capita cost of health-care in the UK, with its "socialist" National Health Service, is $3,609.   In South Korea with a higher life expectancy than we have, it's only $1,616.    In the United States the figure is a budget-busting $8,608.

The American health care system IS NOT A FREE MARKET.

There's no such thing as a free market and the exorbitant price of health care in the US is a glaring example. "In reality, per-capita state-sponsored health expenditures in the United States are the third-highest in the world , only below Norway and Luxembourg. And this is before our new health law kicks in."   The quote is from an article in The Atlantic (March 8, 2012).   The title   speaks volumes: "The Myth of the Free-Market American Health Care System."   As the author a libertarian journalist named, Megan McArdle, points out:  

The thing to remember in America is that we have single-payer health care for the elderly and for the poor: the two costliest groups. In addition, the relatively healthy middle class has heavily-subsidized private health insurance, in which few individuals have the freedom to choose the insurance plan they receive. Neither of these facts commend the American health-care system to devotees of the free market.

   McArdle is manifestly NOT a proponent of state-financed health insurance.   She points out that two of the world's best health-care systems are found in Switzerland and Singapore.   Both are essentially market-based systems, but the Swiss get subsidies (on a sliding scale tied to income) to purchase health insurance and Singapore has a system of mandatory health savings accounts.   But note that in both countries, coverage costs far less than in American, health care efficiency and life expectancy are higher, and coverage is UNIVERSAL.

Prescription drug prices in the US are the HIGHEST IN THE WORLD.

Pharmaceuticals cost far less in most countries than they do in the US; most prescription drugs patented, manufactured, and sold here in the United States are sold abroad at much, much lower prices.   Here are a few facts about prices for 200 of the world's best selling drugs across 13 therapeutic areas:

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Tom Magstadt earned his doctorate in international relations at Johns Hopkins (SAIS). He is a twice-tenured college professor and political science chair. He also served as a foreign intelligence analyst, a Visiting Professor at the Air University (more...)
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The assertion that we have the world's best health... by Thomas Magstadt on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 1:14:01 PM
How ignorant."Conclusion #1: There's no perfect... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 12:09:39 AM
Clearly you don't think much of this article. So m... by Ted Newcomen on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 7:21:16 AM
Thanks for a thoughtful comment.I worked in "less ... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 9:54:09 PM
Your comment, "how ignorant" is disrespectful, but... by Hosea McAdoo on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 11:31:08 AM
First, you missed something.I was in research long... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 10:30:36 PM
Good points made about lifestyle choices being ver... by Ted Newcomen on Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 at 12:51:33 PM
Thank you very much for your thoughtful approach a... by BFalcon on Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 at 9:54:30 PM
Excellent article, thanks!   ... by Ernie Messerschmidt on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 3:17:36 PM
There are many and varied reasons why health care ... by Robert Larkin on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 3:39:22 PM
Taxpayers sometimes pick up the tab for the uninsu... by Richard Pietrasz on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 4:23:31 PM
Some of our politicians have stated that all have ... by Hosea McAdoo on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 11:41:19 AM
Much of what we hear about health care is pure pro... by Michael Dewey on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 4:33:01 PM
Obvious most people haven't had to deal with this ... by Textynn N on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 4:54:57 PM
So sorry.  It's a story repeated over and ove... by Thomas Magstadt on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 6:54:18 PM
EXACTLY--any health care involved is incidental to... by Jill Herendeen on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 8:05:42 AM
That's exactly right.  Medicare won't pay for... by Jill Herendeen on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 8:20:42 AM
Thanks for the embarrassing truths.  ... by Daniel Vasey on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 5:00:10 PM
It is true that the US medical professions, pharma... by David McElroy on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 5:09:38 PM
Big problem in USA Canada is doctors make a killin... by george arch on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 5:13:11 PM
The biggest problem with the current system, as yo... by June Genis on Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 at 11:22:08 AM
Thanks to all for the comments.  Nice insight... by Thomas Magstadt on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 6:44:47 PM
US does not have a healthcare system - it has a he... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 2:16:58 PM
Its easy to tell people to get health care and qui... by kappie on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 9:38:50 AM
Single Payer! The ACA is better that what we ... by Hosea McAdoo on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 11:50:10 AM
Great article. Just a couple of comments:Actually,... by PCM on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 3:14:54 PM
Most American were upset with our near default... by Brian Baxter on Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 8:13:08 PM
Thomas, nice article. I don't agree with much of i... by Darren Wolfe on Thursday, Oct 24, 2013 at 12:49:50 PM