NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 10, 2009

It's a myth that other countries spend less than the United States and get better health care in return, says Philip Klein, a columnist with the American Spectator.

In fact, tests such as CT scans and MRIs that are routinely performed in the United States are done with much less frequency in other systems.  But while other nations set budgets that may be able to keep the costs of medical care lower, there are drawbacks, says Klein:

  • In March, an investigation by Britain's Healthcare Commission found that between 400 and 1,200 people died as the result of "appalling care" at hospitals in Staffordshire.
  • In January 2008, a man who was injured in a traffic accident in Osaka, Japan died after being rejected by five overcrowded emergency rooms; a month before that, an 89-year-old woman died after being denied emergency care by 30 hospitals.
  • In Germany in 2006, 20,000 doctors went on strike to protest low pay and in France in 2003, nearly 15,000 people died in a heat wave, a crisis exacerbated because many doctors were on summer vacation at the time.

Defenders of government-run systems often point out that the United States has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than other industrialized countries, but neither are reliable indicators.  But the incidents are a telling illustration of the differing philosophies in approaching health care.

America is more geared toward the individual, resulting in high costs in the pursuit of saving a single life, and greater inequality.  The collectivist mentality shared by other nations believes in greater equality and lower costs are achieved by making decisions based on the medical needs of the entire population, often at the expense of individuals, says Klein.

Source: Philip Klein, "The Matter With Myths," American Spectator, July/August 2009.

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