Charleston Daily Mail
Thursday September 10, 2009
Robert Fogel won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1993. He wrote a piece last week in which he explained the two reasons why Americans spend more money on health care than everyone else in the world.
First, Americans have had more money to spend.
"Between 1875 and 1995, the share of family income spent on food, clothing, and shelter declined from 87 percent to just 30 percent, despite the fact that we eat more food, own more clothes, and have better and larger homes today than we had in 1875," Fogel wrote.
If we limit the basics to these three items, that means spending on non-basic items rose from 13 percent of income in 1875 to 70 percent in 1995.
That is a fivefold increase.
Some of it went to entertainment, some of it went to government (taxes are much higher), and the rest went to other things, including health care.
So we have had more money to spend on health care.
The second reason we spend more is because spending more money on health care works.
"It is important to emphasize that medical interventions have not only contributed to the decline in prevalence rates of chronic conditions but also to the reduction in their severity," Fogel wrote.
"Advances in both surgical and drug therapies have significantly reduced the rate at which chronic conditions turn into disabilities that severely impair functioning.
"Such interventions have been especially effective in genitourinary, circulatory, digestive, and musculoskeletal conditions.
"However, many of the surgical procedures are quite expensive, and the cost of the new and more effective drugs is increasing sharply, mainly because of the large investments in developing these drugs."
The United States, overall, has both the most expensive and the best health care in the world.
The socialist argument that somehow spending more on health care makes our health system inferior is absurd.
This argument is based on life expectancy tables.
But life expectancy has many factors, including average weight, homicide rates, suicide rates, genetics and traffic fatalities.
The emphasis in America is on saving lives, not money.
In every socialist country, the opposite is true. The only way to save money on health care is to ration it.
When socialists toss around a number such as 18,000 people die because they lack health insurance, I remember that 14,802 people died in France in August 2003 because of the French health system.
There was a heat wave, and instead of calling doctors back from their month-long vacations to tend those people, the French government decided to save money.
Adjusted for population, that would be like 70,000 deaths in America, or roughly 35 Hurricane Katrinas.
In England, the Taxpayers Alliance estimated that an extra 17,000 people die each year because of the quality of the National Health Service.
That is no big deal to many British people.
"An extra 17,000 deaths might seem high, but that figure needed to be set against annual mortality, which was between 750,000 and one million deaths every year," the liberal London Guardian reported.
"The countries with which the UK was being compared spent more of their GDP on healthcare."
The extra deaths are OK to liberals because, hey, look at all the money the government is saving.