Thursday, March 11, 2010

Every civilized country (even our own) recognizes that there is a common benefit when more of the population has access to good health -- whether that benefit is moral, economic or whatever. Because of our fear of government and our fetish for capitalism-in-all-things we've built a system which manages to harness the worst of both worlds to create a mess.  

On the one side is government regulation at its clumsiest -- that is rather than incentivizing behaviors that promote the common good, government policy regulates directly against the incentives built into the system (profits) in favor of something else (care); it asks corrupted politicians to choose between the needs of constituents and corporate donors; all transparency is lost in a mishmash of state and federal regulations.  

On the other side is the worst kind of capitalism -- heavily monopolistic rather than market in almost all cases; a morass of heavy regulation and cronyism that favors the biggest, best connected companies; and profits that increase in direct proportion to amount of human suffering caused.  

The only arguments that I hear for keeping this system are that it's unfair to insurance companies (!!!??) or that government can't do it -- neither of which hold any water as far as I'm concerned. The US is suffering from a severe case of insurance-industry-induced lack of imagination and can-do-itiveness.

Here's a chart that shows how we get the least return on our health care dollars -- and how much of an outlier the US is as a result of our dysfunctional system (click on figure to expand):