American Health Care Would Be Better if It Weren't Already So Socialist

The next time you try to compare US health care with a socialist program from another country...stop. It doesn't make sense to compare socialist health plans with each other. Saying that government should take more control of American health care because it's bad is like saying that because McDonald's french fries are bad for you, we should add more grease to them.

I listened to a fascinating presentation by Dr. David Gratzer, who is licensed to practice medicine in both the US and Canada. He thinks it is a mistake for the United States to get sucked into thinking that the Canadian health care system works better than the US's, especially when Canada is returning to privatization in many instances. So are some European countries. The grass really isn't as green on that side of the fence as it may first appear.

To listen to Dr. Gratzer's insights, click here. The presentation is about 65 minutes long, but if you download the file and use Windows Media Player at 2-times normal speed, it's only 32.5 minutes! At either speed it's well worth listening to.

Here are some of the insights from his talk:

  • American health care is terribly expensive because is terribly cheap. Because Americans are overinsured. (I wrote a post about this a while back.)
  • The US government currently pays for at least 50% of Americans' health care. That sounds kind of socialist to me. I'd say that's at least a 50-50 chance that the government is the problem. Dr. Gratzer agrees in his new book THE CURE: HOW CAPITALISM CAN SAVE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE.
  • Americans currently only pay about 14 cents out of pocket of every dollar that is spent on health care. That's not a recipe for efficient utilization of health services.
  • Our health care is pretty good if you think about it. It actually should cost a little more if we can cure diseases that 10, 20, or 50 years ago were sure tickets to an early death.
  • Of the 47 million Americans who don’t have health care, 1/3 make over $50k per year, and 1/3 qualify for Medicare. (And several of the rest are illegal aliens.)
  • Currently US spending on Health Care is 16% of GDP. Jan 1, 2013 is the projected date on which 4 trillion dollars, or 21% of GDP will be spending for health care in US. We are approaching a crisis.
  • The FDA could save Americans a great deal of money if it got back to simply determining whether a drug was safe, rather than also determining its efficacy (whether it works for its intended purpose).
  • Medicaid should be turned over to the states, where there can be much more innovation than at the Federal level. Some states may want to go with a government-single-payer system, but other states would have the option of fostering private competition.
  • Dr. Gratzer gives a different perspective on the 80/20 rule of health care--that 20% of the population generates 80% of the health care costs. That is true for any given point in time, he says, but in reality, the 80% population is not nearly a monolithic group of people. Instead, different groups of people in different years have complications with pregnancies, serious accidents, or need longer-term care.
I bought Dr. Gratzer's book last night off Amazon. It'll be here in a day or two. I'll let you know what other insights I find. But I already agree with his premise. Get rid of the socialistic portion of American health care, and we'll be a lot better off.


  1. Great post.

    I like your greasy fries analogy.

    Thanks for the link to Dr. Gratzer's presentation.

  2. What about people who get dropped from their insurance and can't afford an outrageously priced new policy?

  3. There are a lot of reasons health insurance is so expensive, one of which I outlined in the article: we are over-insured. Some people wouldn't get dropped as often if so many other people didn't go in every time they felt like they were sick, because it's only a $10 co-pay.

    I can give you a more detailed (coherent?) answer after I read Gratzer's book, but Gratzer says the problem originated when government in 1941 tied health care to employee payroll and allowed health benefits to be pre-tax. That makes us tied into our employer, and makes insurance less portable and more expensive. If gov't would let us keep the premium that we and our employers pay, and allow us to determine how to spend it, we'd have been better off now, because our premiums would be lower. By the way, if gov't would stop kowtowing to the insurance companies now, we'd be better off as well.

    My doctor and my dentist know just how much to charge, because they know just how much the insurance will pay. And they have very nice houses because of it.

  4. Thanks. It will take a lot of people realizing that government intervention in health care and the structure of our tax system's health insurance incentives are the sources of many of the system's woes before we look for solutions that would actually solve the problems. More government meddling is not going to make it better.

  5. I know someone who is 55 and got dropped from his insurance. This was about a year ago and he still can't find an affordable insurance plan let alone someone that will pick him's sad really and I'm not sure who's to blame.


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