Thursday, August 21, 2003

Health Costs Compared

Health Costs Compared

" BOSTON, Aug. 20 — A comparison of health care costs has found that 31 cents of every dollar spent on health care in the United States pays administrative costs, nearly double the rate in Canada.

Researchers who prepared the comparison said today that the United States wasted more money on health bureaucracy than it would cost to provide health care to the tens of millions of the uninsured."

This isn't new, but it's an update on old data. It actually sounds like administrative costs in Canada are higher than they used to be, probably because of more private insurance in some provinces. I think they used to be only 10%.

The study I found MOST interesting was done about a year ago. It got very little press. That study showed that for common serious acute illnesses, Canadian's had better outcomes than comparable Americans. Everyone knows that Canada does better with infant mortality, prenatal care, immunizations, preventive care, hospice care, etc etc -- but the presumption was that the US system did better with heart attacks and appendicitis. Not so, Canada still has better results. The studies don't address why; it may be the two groups were not really comparable. For example, we know ethnicity affects outcomes even when healtchare seems identical and wealth is controlled for.

Still, these studies put a lot of pressure on those who argue that the US has "the best healthcare system in the world". That's BS. We don't, not by a long shot. We have areas of true excellence, particularly for the wealthy, but we're overall second rate.

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