This Week In Depressing Health News

Via Yglesias, the most depressing graph I saw all day:

If it’s too small, clicking on the graph should get you an expanded version.  Anyhow, it shows expenditure on health care, as a percentage of GDP, by country, with individual breakouts for public (orange) and private (periwinkle) spending.  Matt is in Finland this week, so he specifically talked about the Finnish system, but the lessons from this graph are pretty general.

Note, first, that the U.S. spends a much larger %age of its GDP on health care than any other country in the list, ~15.5% vs. about 11.5% for Switzerland.  4% of US GDP is an absolute shit-ton of money.  For 2007, if we could just have reduced our health care expenditures to the 11.5% that Switzerland spent, that would have saved $560 billion, on par with the total expenditures we’re talking about to bail out the banking system right now.

Next, note that the only three countries that have a similar split, roughly 50/50 in public/private spending, are Greece (actually more private than public), Mexico (ditto), and Korea.  Not exactly a “Who’s Who In Places Everyone Is Breaking Down The Doors To Live In, 2008.”

Finally, as Yglesias points out, several countries who have universal health coverage, including Holland, Spain, Ireland, and Finland, still manage to spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than we do, with our public coverage only for the old, the very young, the indigent, government employees and current and former soldiers.  Add in the much-reduced private expenditures that are needed, thanks to comprehensive public systems, and Finland spends about 8% less of GDP on health care than we do, for a system which is more universal and fair.

Imagine a world in which we had a better health care system, insurance for all, and 1.1 trillion dollars leftover in our piggy banks.  Not such a bad place, eh?


One Response to This Week In Depressing Health News

  1. It’s not just what we spend, although that’s important information. It’s the outcome we achieve. That’s an outcome that is abominable. We have shorter life expectancy and greater infant mortality than most of the places in that list, for about 80-100% more money.


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