The Strange US Health Care System

I got 2 funny emails this past week — both about the health care bill.

I was admonished (by KF) to participate in the debate:

“Why haven’t you said anything about health care? You must have a view!!!

Three exclamation points? That’s a clear sign of an emotional, rather than logical perspective. I see that as a pointless debate, one I have no desire to engage in. So I ignore them.

However, this email (from JW) intrigued me:

“Your logical and data driven approach to markets and human psychology is refreshing. I am curious as to your thoughts regarding the pending health care legislation from that perspective (logic, rather than politics).

In that spirit, I will repeat what I told him, a) this isn’t an issue that I am particularly insterested in, and 2) I have no particular expertise in this area. And I am unfamiliar with the bill that is about to become law.

However, I can tell you what I think is wrong with the current US system — its a utter mess, and should be tossed out wholesale. Throw it out, start over, rebuild it from the ground up.

Here’s what I emailed JW about what is wrong with the current system:

“When it comes to health care, I will share with four factors that I find to be significant. Others have already beaten certain aspects of this to death — so these may not even be the most important factors overall. But in my experience, these are things that keep coming back to me about the health care issue:

1) Most of the industrialized world has national heath insurance — they (mostly) like it a lot. Speak to people from  England, Switzerland, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, France, Japan and especially Australia, they all love their natty health care. (Canadians, much less so). People in my office lived in Sydney for 10 years, swear by it. Talk to Europeans about our debate, and they will tell you Americans are insane.

2) We pay for medical care for 45 million people in the most inefficient way possible. Taking a kid with a high fever to the ER instead of the pediatrician makes a $60 office visit cost $8,000. Those parents don’t pay that bill, and so the costs are passed along to everyone else. That makes no sense whatsoever. I don’t know if its even possible to make medical care less efficiently priced than this arrangement if you tried.

3) Having a for-profit middle man between medical personnel and the patient is a recipe for disaster. This is an enormous inefficiency, and as as applied in the US has worked to raise costs and deny coverage. And, it make medical administration much more complex and costly than it should be. That seems like a lose/lose/lose to everyone — but the insurance cos.

4) Our system is weird: I can only speak from personal experience, and I can say as a person who has been fortunate enough to be relatively healthy. Our insurance system is simply freaky. I have a quick story about this in comments . . .

Those are my views about what’s wrong; I have no idea how to fix it . . .

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