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Top Excuses For Failure To Reform US Health Care System

Armen Hareyan's picture

US Health Care System

U.S. residents might think the fact that the nation "spends far more onhealth care per person than any other nation," yet has "lower lifeexpectancy than most other rich countries," would "make the case formajor reform of America's health care system ... irrefutable,"columnist Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times."Instead, however, apologists for the status quo offer a barrage ofexcuses for our system's miserable performance," Krugman adds.

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Krugmanwrites that one excuse people give is that even if people areuninsured, they still have access to care. Krugman cites PresidentBush's claim that "people have access to health care in America"because they can "just go to an emergency room." Although Bush "waswidely mocked for his cluelessness," many of the "apologists for thehealth care system in the United States seem almost equally clueless,"Krugman writes. U.S. residents are told that "there really aren't manyuninsured American citizens because some of the uninsured" areundocumented immigrants and some of the rest are eligible for Medicaid,Krugman continues, adding, "This misses the point that the 47 millionpeople in this country without insurance are an ever-changing group, sothat the experience of being without insurance extends to a muchbroader group."

In addition, Krugman notes that a "largefraction of the population ... is underinsured." The second excuseKrugman discusses is the "bad habits" of U.S. residents. He writes that"obesity and other lifestyle-related problems" might "partially explainAmerica's low life expectancy," but the "big question isn't why we havelower life expectancy than Britain, Canada or France, it's why we spendfar more on health care without getting better results."

Anotherexcuse people use to justify high health costs is that health care in2007 is better than it was in 1950, according to Krugman. He comparesthat logic to seeing a DVD player priced twice what it costs at otherstores and having the salesman tell you "not to worry" because the"machines on offer at his store are a lot better than they were fiveyears ago." Krugman continues, "It is, in other words, an argument thatmakes no sense at all, yet respectable economists make it with astraight face." The final excuse Krugman describes is "the long,dishonest tradition of peddling scare stories about the evils of'government-run' health care."

According to Krugman, the"reality is that the best foreign health care systems ... do as well orbetter than the U.S. system on every dimension, while costing far lessmoney." He writes that the "best way to counter scare talk aboutsocialized medicine" is "to point out that every American 65 and olderis covered by a government health insurance program called Medicare"and that they "like that program very much" (Krugman, New York Times, 11/9).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.