Cost of American health care: Two ways to downplay the problem!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2011

Now they’ve even got Leonhardt: What happens to people who write for the New York Times Sunday Review?

Yesterday, Maureen Dowd offered the strangest claim ever put into print. And even David Leonhardt let the nation down in a long page-one report.

What Leonhardt wrote was perfectly accurate. But why would you put it like this?
LEONHARDT (10/9/11): In particular, three giant industries—finance, health care and housing—now include large amounts of unproductive capacity. Housing may have shrunk, but it is still a bigger, more subsidized sector in this country than in many others.

Health care is far larger, with the United States spending at least 50 percent more per person on medical care than any other country, without getting vastly better results. (Some aspects of our care, like certain cancer treatments, are better, while others, like medical error rates, are worse.) The contrast suggests that a significant portion of medical spending is wasted, be it on approaches that do not make people healthier or on insurance-company bureaucracy.
“Without getting vastly better results?” On balance, we aren’t getting getter results at all, based on what Leonhardt went on to say. Why would you put “vastly” in there?

Even worse was Leonhardt’s account of per-person spending. Is the U.S. “spending at least 50 percent more per person on medical care than any other country?” Yes, but why put it like that?

As far as we know, 2008 is the most recent year for which OECD data exist. In that year, this was the per-person spending on health care in the United States and in comparable nations:
Per person spending on health care, 2008:
United States $7538
Canada $4079
Germany $3737
France $3696
Australia $3353
United Kingdom $3129
Spain $2902
Italy $2870
Japan $2729
For our money, the United States “spends two or three times as much per person as other comparable nations.” To produce his much less startling formulation, Leonhardt had to consider two small boutique nations—Switzerland and Norway. (Switzerland blows $5003 per person, Norway $4627.)

Can we talk? We spend two to three times what our peer nations spend. On balance, we don’t get better results at all. Question: What happens to people when they write for the Times Sunday Review?

Strangest claim ever in print: In that same section, Maureen Dowd put this claim into print. It may be the strangest claim ever:
DOWD (10/9/11): Sometimes it feels as though I spend half my time working and the other half trying to ameliorate the strain of working.
Obviously, she can’t be referring to her job as a columnist.

Does Dowd have a stressful second job? Should the Times say what it is?

12 comments:

  1. I'd be curious as to how much we are spending per pound per person as opposed to per person on healthcare. It makes a significant difference.

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  2. Dowd indeed deals with tremendous stress as she has to make her bizarre worldview co-exist with accepted reality.
    However, she is able to ameliorate much of her stress by visited an insanely expensive resort spa each year. She also cranks out a column about her trip thereby allowing the Times to pick up the tab. Sometimes she travels with Alessandra, others with Michiko. Plainly, we all benefit.

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  3. Health care is far larger, with the United States spending at least 50 percent more per person on medical care than any other country, without getting vastly better results Liz Woods

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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