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  December 23, 2012

The Bottom Line: Healthcare

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We are economists who think that the economy should serve people, the planet and the future.

The United States ranks first in the world in health care spending per person, but only 45th in life expectancy. The average American sees a doctor less often than the average Canadian, the average Briton, or the average resident of most industrial democracies. The average life expectancy of white Americans without a high school degree has fallen since 1990 by three years for men and five years for women.

This paradoxical combination of first-class costs and second-rate performance is a result of a multi-payer health care system whose enormous administrative bureaucracy absorbs nearly one-third of our health care dollars. The aim of this private bureaucracy is to police patients and doctors, not to add value or protect human health.

A further result is that nearly 50 million Americans today lack health insurance. Millions more have coverage inadequate to prevent bankruptcy or financial disaster in the event of a serious illness.

Some claim that the best way to improve health and extend coverage is to subsidize private insurance. But rather than controlling costs, subsidies multiply the economic waste in our health care system.

Some claim that government-funded health care means “rationing” access to health care. They ignore the all-too-painful rationing that occurs every day when private insurers deny coverage and when families can't afford to go to a doctor or buy medicines.

We oppose treating health care as a commodity to be rationed on the basis of purchasing power or a privilege to be rationed on the basis of political power.

We call for a national health insurance system that provides universal access to essential health care. We call for insurance for all Americans in a single risk pool – the efficient model already used by Medicare and the Veterans Administration – a system that can save billions of dollars while improving health and well-being.

We extend our support to all who are working to build an effective and accountable health care system that puts public health before private profit and secures health care for all regardless of income, age, or pre-existing conditions.


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