The Fragmented Status Quo of US Health Care

We got a lot of mostly thoughtful point/counter-point in the comments section of our anecdotal post about Socialized Health Care the other day. Many of them pointed out that the US Health Care system is certainly not without its long wait lines, and that this is symptomatic of a health care system in which millions of uninsured can not afford to treat minor ills until they finally have to go to the ER as a venue of last resort, for the sort of stomach aches and flus that is easily treated in more nascent stages by antibiotics or a quick doctor’s visit. It’s a different spin on the same problem: in Ireland, the system is taxed by the universally insured, whereas in the States, the uninsured jam up the cogs with what should be trivial ailments that have spiraled out of control.

Doing some more reading on the subject, we were delighted to find this review of the American health care system in the New York Review of Books by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells. The summary is that the US Healthcare system spends more money on health care, yet the average American gets far worse care than comparable countries.

A history of failed attempts to introduce universal health insurance has left us with a system in which the government pays directly or indirectly for more than half of the nation’s health care, but the actual delivery both of insurance and of care is undertaken by a crazy quilt of private insurers, for-profit hospitals, and other players who add cost without adding value. A Canadian-style single-payer system, in which the government directly provides insurance, would almost surely be both cheaper and more effective than what we now have. And we could do even better if we learned from “integrated” systems, like the Veterans Administration, that directly provide some health care as well as medical insurance.

Also interesting is this dissection post on Concurring Opinions, in which they talk about the enormous political status quo of healthcare’s hopelessly fragmented system, which they believe would be a powerful adversary to any sort of universal health care / single payer situation. Just a fascinating problem.

Related: My Experience With Socialized Health Care

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.