Jonathan Teller-Elsberg  @  ChelseaGreen

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Healthcare reform. Yay for progress. Sigh for regress.

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009 at 4:56 pm by Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

My feelings about healthcare reform run hot and cold. Sometimes I fall out of line with the "official" progressive perspective, getting more and more excited by the prospect that reform, even 3rd rate reform, might actually pass. People in the United States have been striving for some kind of universal healthcare system since at least the 1930s and haven't been able to achieve it yet. We might actually see success this year. Wow! And even if it's some Rube Goldberg absurdity, expanding coverage to an additional 40+ million people is nothing to sneeze at. (The reform effort at hand promises to expand coverage to a greater number of people than exist in all of Canada, the lefties' single-payer utopia.)

Then again I remember just what a difference there is between what sensible reform would look like and the ugly, genetically modified beast that is standing in for "success." For example, there's that annoying factoid that the US already spends roughly as much in government/taxpayer money on health care as the comparable "advanced economy" countries of the world, measured as a percentage of GDP, and yet for their money they cover 100 percent of their populations while we here cover a measly 28 percent of our population.

[Source: for percent of GDP, Word Resources Institute, Earth Trends database (accessed Oct 2, 2009) ; for percent of population, Wikipedia, "Universal health care" (accessed Oct 5, 2009) and American Medical Students Association, "International Health Care Systems Primer" (PDF).]

For the same money! They are getting 3 to 4 times the bang for the buck. And all the while our "fiscal conservative" politicians from both parties do everything they can to prevent us from achieving that kind of fiscal sanity.

In other words, if we thoroughly reformed the system, we could probably achieve 100 percent universal coverage and not only avoid spending more but actually spend far, far less than we currently do (when counting both public and private expenditure). But we won't. Because–for no good reason I can understand–Americans aren't organizing mass protests in favor of a Canadian-style single payer system or French-style, um, French system. Maybe next time.


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