Please don't wake us progressives: The headline in today's New York Times was hopelessly, utterly useless:
"Health Spending in U.S. Topped $3 Trillion Last Year"
Wow! $3 trillion in health care spending! But is $3 trillion a lot or a little? Very few readers will know.
Very few readers will have any way to answer that basic question. And uh-oh! As Robert Pear's news report began, we were struck by the relative uselessness of other basic facts:
PEAR (12/3/15): Health Spending in U.S. Topped $3 Trillion Last YearWe spent $9,500 per person on health care last year! That was 17.5% of our GDP!
Health spending in the United States last year topped $3 trillion—an average of $9,500 a person—as five years of exceptionally slow growth gave way to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid and private insurance coverage, and as prescription drug prices resumed their sharp climbs, the government said Wednesday.
Health spending grew faster than the economy in 2014, and the federal share of health spending grew even faster, as major provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect.
Total spending on health care increased 5.3 percent last year, the biggest jump since 2007, and accounted for 17.5 percent of the nation’s economic output, up from 17.3 percent in 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services said in its annual report on spending trends.
Are those numbers a lot or a little? Very few readers will know! Meanwhile, Pear sleepwalked through his 1044-word report. Though he speculated about the politics which will emerge from a few of these statistical changes, he never gave readers a way to put those basic numbers on health care spending into a global context.
Because we have only two things on our minds, we alleged progressives have always accepted this type of reporting. After reading Pear's report, we decided to look at the latest OECD figures on per person health care spending.
Below, you see the ugly story you'll never read in the Times:
Health care spending, per person, 2013We like to throw in little Finland, which big newspapers robotically tout as the role model for everything else. Miraculous Finland spent $3442 per person on health care in 2013! How does Finland do it?
United States $8713
Australia $3866 (2012)
United Kingdom $3235
What makes that list of numbers so ugly? The difference between U.S. spending and that of all other nations represents an annual form of corporate looting. It represents the extra money that's being siphoned away and distributed to various "interests."
(Remember, that's per-person health care looting. To measure the amount of looting for a family of four, you'll have to multiply by an undisclosed number.)
The United States minus France? Mathematically, it comes out to almost $4600 per person! That money is being looted from liberal and conservative households alike. It helps explain stagnating wages. As Dean Baker often notes, it does account, all by itself, for the annual federal deficit.
If we might borrow from Nicolette Larson, that's a lotta looting! But because we progressives have only two things on our minds, we never notice or complain when big newspapers like the Times forget to offer this punishing context in their news reports about the size of our health care spending.
Where is all that money going? You'll never hear that question discussed by your favorite liberals and progressives, except when we (wrongly) suggest that single payer would fix this problem. We progressives have only two things on our minds. For that reason, this looting is basically fine by us!
Credit where due! At the end of a news report which is swimming with disconnected facts, Pear included a basic statistic we don't recall seeing in such reports before. We've often wondered about this general matter:
PEAR: Medicare spending averaged $11,700 per beneficiary last year, representing an increase of 2.4 percent. By contrast, spending per beneficiary was virtually flat in 2012 and 2013.$11,700 per person! That strikes us as surprisingly low, which leaves a question in our heads. That said, we've always wondered how much money other nations spend on people over 65 as compared to what we spend.
You'll never learn a fact like that reading the New York Times. Nor will you see your favorite progressives stoop to bring it up.
Just a guess! The interests are extremely happy with our progressive approach to these matters. The interests love it when we have only two things on our minds!
Let's take a look at the record: For spending by all the OECD nations, you can just click here.