Healthcare costs in lives and dollars

Talking Points Memo has an interesting article by Brian Beutler on the question of whether people in the U.S. die from lack of health insurance. In brief, most research into the question says yes, but some studies have concluded otherwise.

Of course, even if majority view is wrong, the fact remains that our healthcare system, now about a fifth of the whole economy, is very inefficient in dollars and cents terms in comparison with the rest of the developed world. As Mitt Romney said in a talk in Israel in late July, “Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? Eight percent. You spend eight percent of GDP on health care. You’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care, 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, compare that with the size of our military—our military which is 4 percent, 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of GDP.”

(In fact, 10 percent of gross domestic product is more than total federal discretionary spending in the U.S. — the sum of all annual appropriations by Congress, everything from national defense and foreign aid to law enforcement and scientific and medical research, excluding only things like Social Security and Medicare that represent long-term promises and aren’t appropriated annually.)

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