It Wouldn’t Cost Anything At All

The United States spends as much government money on health care as do the socialized health care systems of Europe.  States and our federal government now spend nearly two trillion dollars a year on health care.  That’s more, as a % of GDP, than Canada and the U.K. spend on

single-payer government systems.

It wouldn’t cost us anything to establish a “European” health care system, and we’d still have a free market system—now free of government mandates and insurance, with much lower prices than before!

Here’s a graph of healthcare spending by country, with figures from the American Journal of Public Health:

Note that all the European countries have free-market health care alongside their public systems.  And not one of them spends as much government money on health care as our governments (federal, state, and local) spend on health care.  It’s not even close.  These figures include items you wouldn’t think of, such as the money that towns and cities spend to give health care benefits to their workers, using private-market health insurance.

It’s often said that ordinary Europeans pay huge taxes—a 19% value-added tax, and $6 a gallon for gasoline—but that they get free health care.  Our government actually spends much more, but the fire hose of money doesn’t give us much for the dollars spent.  In comparison with Europe our taxes on the working class are too low, and our spending on medical care is too high.  But medical care is a huge problem for our working classes.

These figures are from 2013.  That’s before the Affordable Care Act exchanges, with 12 million patients, opened;  and in the years that followed another 13 million would be added to Medicaid.  Free-market health care in the United States is now tiny, in comparison to our socialized medical systems.

Medical care has been the driving force behind the rapid growth of our gigantic federal debt, and it’s going to get a lot worse. Government will get less tax revenue from 76 million retiring Baby Boomers, and it will spend much more on them when they join Medicare.

And really, the biggest problem in American health care is that Medicaid and Medicare drive up the cost of health care for everybody else by demanding deep discounts.  They are parasites, sucking the life out of health care providers.  When a non-profit hospital loses money on a Medicaid patient, it has to raise rates for other patients or go bankrupt.  Medicaid expansion clearly caused a big increase in the cost of health care for everybody else.   And it’s busting state budgets across the country.

Nobody can afford it.  Colleges hire part-time faculty so they don’t have to pay for health insurance.  Huge numbers of people are still looking for a “good” job—by which they often mean “a job with benefits”.  Health care is the key to most of the problems in our economy and our government.

We can’t have an affordable private system unless we free it from Medicare and Medicaid.  The cost of health care in this country would be phenomenally low if we were to remove the burdens of Medicare, Medicaid, and the maddening paperwork demanded by insurance companies.  It already is low, if you go to providers who don’t have these burdens.  The Surgical Center of Oklahoma is a “cash only” hospital that puts the prices for 250 surgical procedures, all inclusive, right on its web site.   The prices are low because they don’t take insurance-company payments, they don’t take Medicare, and they don’t take Medicaid.

From a cost perspective we already have the worst system in the world, so there’s nowhere to go but up.  At this point we can have universal health care, AND reduce spending on health care so that it doesn’t drive the entire nation into bankruptcy.  But first somebody has to tell the American public what the Medicare trustees have been saying for years.  Medicare is going to run out of money soon, and it needs to change.  Medicaid doesn’t work, either;  and we won’t be able to have an affordable free-market system unless we fold all the government spending into a single program.  A program that imitates any of the health care systems that exist in other developed countries.

We can call this new government system “Medicare”, so it will seem that we’re “putting everybody into Medicare”.  The opportunity is there for the taking, if politicians can develop the courage to tell the elderly that Medicare is going to change.