One of the right’s primary arguments against a single-payer national health system is it will be more expensive than private insurance. They argue against another federal program. What they have not recognized is all other countries that have public health plans are actually cheaper than the US as expressed in expenditures per GDP and per capita. In addition, public health systems in some cases provide better overall health service as measured through an increased life expectancy.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tracks member state’s health systems. They issue an annual study on the cost of health care and the overall effectiveness of the various systems. In their latest report on the US, they note of member countries, only the US, Mexico and Korea rely primarily on private health insurance to provide medical care. The median amount of GDP spent on health care of 29 countries has fluctuated between 7.9 and 8.4 for 2000-2003. For 2000-2003, US health expense as a percentage of GDP was 13.1%, 13.8%, 14.6% and 15% respectively – by far the highest total of all countries. Germany was the next most expensive country and their totals for the same years (2000-2003) were 10.6%, 10.8%, 10.9%, 11.1%, respectively. So, as a percentage of GDP basis, the US spends between 34% and 75% more as a percentage of GDP than countries that rely primarily on public funds to provide health service.
The OECD also breaks health expenses down into amount spent per capita. For the last four years (2000-2003), the median per capital expense for 29 OECD countries ranged from $2010 to 2248. Over the same years, the US once again spent more than any other OECD country, with figures for 2000-2003 of $4539, $4888, $5287 and $5635. Over the same time, Switzerland ranked second in per capita expenditures and Germany third. It’s important to notice that the US’s private health care system routinely spends at least twice as much per person than other countries with public health systems.
So, the US spends the most on health care. Our system must provide some incredible benefits! Actually, the US benefits are below median for all OECD countries. In 1990, the median life expectancy of males and females for all OECD countries 75.5 years, while the US’ number was 75.3. In 2000, the OECD median life expectancy was 78 and the US’s was 76.8. In 2003, the OECD’s number was 78.5 and the US’ was n77.2. For the years 2000-2003, the OECD’s infant mortality rate as expressed as number of deaths per 1000 decreased from 5.1 in 2000 to 4.3 in 2003. In contrast, the US’ numbers increased from 6.9 in 2000 to 7 in 2003. So, in OECD countries, people are living longer and fewer kids are dying.
Countries with public health insurance spend less per GDP and per capita on health expenses, they live longer, and fewer infants die. That sounds damn good to me, but then again I like facts instead of faith.