Of course we’d all like to have the best services for the lowest cost. The US does spend a lot on healthcare. Do we get value for our money? A July 26, 2009 Washington Post editorial stated, “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that new technology accounts for about half the increase in health-care costs over the past several decades. This, for the most part, is a good thing. Adjusted for inflation, health-care spending per person is six times what it was 40 years ago. But no one today would settle for 1960s-style medicine.”
Supporters of government-run healthcare often hold up Canada and the UK as examples we should follow. Here are a few facts from an OECD study which suggest Americans may be getting good value for money:
- The US has approximately 26.5 MRI machines per one million people, versus 5.6 in the UK and 6.2 in Canada (2006 data)
- The US has approximately 33.9 CT scanners per one million people, versus 7.6 in the UK and 12.0 in Canada (2006 data)
- The US performs 145 coronary bypass surgeries per 100,000 people, versus 47 in the UK and 91 in Canada (2004 data)
- The US performs 434 angioplasties per 100,000 people, versus 81 in the UK and 138 in Canada (2004 data)
- The US suffers 40 heart attack deaths per 100,000 people, versus 49 in the UK and 42 in Canada (2004 data)
- The US suffers 158 cancer deaths per 100,000 people, versus 176 in the UK and 169 in Canada (2004 data). In fact, according to a study published in British medical journal The Lancet, the US has the best cancer survival rates in the world.
Americans are also likely to have more privacy and more amenities when hospitalized.
Perhaps we should view the high cost of the US healthcare system as an engine of growth and innovation rather than as a burden. The basic material needs of people are food, clothing, and shelter. Americans have done very well for themselves meeting these needs. Perhaps it is natural that society would next desire advances in healthcare… and be willing to pay for it. Expected innovation from advances in stem cell, nanotechnology, and human genome research will undoubtedly improve American health in years to come – and also economic growth, exports, and prosperity – IF government does not intervene in the private sector.