The Spectacle Blog

Pay Cheap, Get Cheap

By on 3.19.07 | 2:59PM

From Ezra Klein's blog:

But look: This NHS bashing misses the point. In 2003, the British spent $2,231 per person. America spent $5,635. In other words, they spent 39% what we did. So whether they're "better" or "worse" is a bit hard to argue. Better or worse for what? They're certainly cheaper. And I've never, ever heard anyone argue that their health outcomes are 60% worse than ours. I would certainly prefer to get in a car accident in America, particularly if I had awesome insurance. But I'd certainly prefer to pay my health bills in Britain. And I'd really prefer if people stopped pretending you could make an apples-to-apples comparison between the two.

Well, let me be the first to argue that the Brits' outcomes are at least 60% worse than we are. Here is a study in the British Journal of Surgery comparing the mortality rate (risk-adjusted) post non-cardiac surgery in the U.S. and U.K. Turns out the mortality rate in the U.K is four times higher than in the U.S., or about 400% worse.

Surely, some of the extra money we spend is wasted, but the above study suggests some of it does produce better outcomes. And while it would be nice if we could get our treatment here but pay in Britain, I doubt one can so easily separate payment from quality of treatment. Spend what they do in Britain, and you are probably going to get treatment similar to that in Britain.

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