Thursday, January 28, 2010

My State-of-the-Union Edit: The 90-Second Game Changer

It's now the day after the State-of-the-Union address, and everyone with an opinion about politics or public policy is offering a list of things Obama should have said. I'll limit myself to one, with the note that I was surprised by how many of the right things he said:

"Most people have part of the cost of their health insurance paid by their employer or by the Social Security trust fund, so it's hard to get a sense of how much it actually costs. But make no mistake: we're all paying those costs, whether we can see them or not, in lower wages, higher prices, reduced employment, and reduced international competitiveness.

"Here's a startling fact. Look at the other advanced industrialized countries, and take the most expensive health-care system among them. This is a system that, like most of them, has universal coverage, in a country that, like most of them, has better statistics on life expectancy and infant mortality than we do. And by the way, it has private-sector provision.

"If our costs were proportional to theirs, we would be paying roughly $8,000 per household less than we pay for our current system that leaves tens of millions uncovered and doesn't provide very good health. That's a very rough estimate of the waste in our system: $8,000 per household . That's how much better off we could be, without sacrificing health, with a country where no one goes bankrupt from health costs or loses their coverage when they need it most, if we had a more efficient system."

Note: This is a quickie back-of-the-envelope calculation, based on Switzerland's per-capita health-care costs being two-thirds of ours, and our total being $2.4 trillion.

Like it? I call it a "ninety-second game-changer." Instead of the discussion being about whether we can afford a new system, it's about whether we can afford the present one.

No comments:

Post a Comment