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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Health Care in the U.S.: Too Much for Too Little

People always say you get what you pay for -- but that's not necessarily the case when it comes to health care.

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, our favorite health economist, reports that the U.S. ranks last in several categories, despite the fact that we pay more for health care, per capita, than any other country in the world.

Americans don't like to be ranked last in anything, and we take offence when negative comparisons are made about our health care system. But there's a lot of misinformation out there, and I think it pays to take an honest look at how other developed countries deliver health care to their citizens.

In a previous blog, I mentioned an excellent PBS special on health care called "Sick Around America." PBS also produced a companion documentary called "Sick Around the World," which takes a clear-headed look at the health care systems of countries like the UK, Japan, German, and Switzerland. I highly recommend it.

If I had a dime for every time I've heard "socialized medicine" or "death panel" in the past two years, I'd have a lot of dimes. But the truth is, each of the countries profiled in the PBS special has a unique approach to health care -- and dismissing an alternative system as "socialized medicine" isn't helpful. While we certainly don't have to adopt another country's methods wholesale, I think it's foolish not to learn from their experience. Germany has been offering some form of national health insurance since the 1880s!

So what are your views on this controversial subject? Do you agree with the ranking of our health care system, or do you see it differently?

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