WE CAN"T AFFORD NOT TO HAVE UNIVERSAL HEATHCARE: To follow up on Atrios and Ezra, let me carry the stats in this Times article one step further. Let's use their figures to extrapolate government health care spending per capita:

United States $2745
France $2464
Canada $2215

Again, our system doesn't just spend far more money than France's much better system and Canada's heavily flawed but still better system, but more government money. And as Krugman says today:

Part of the answer is that our fragmented system has much higher administrative costs than the straightforward government insurance systems prevalent in the rest of the advanced world. As Anna Bernasek pointed out in yesterday�s New York Times, besides the overhead of private insurance companies, �there�s an enormous amount of paperwork required of American doctors and hospitals that simply doesn�t exist in countries like Canada or Britain.�

In addition, insurers often refuse to pay for preventive care, even though such care saves a lot of money in the long run, because those long-run savings won�t necessarily redound to their benefit. And the fragmentation of the American system explains why we lag far behind other nations in the use of electronic medical records, which both reduce costs and save lives by preventing many medical errors.

The truth is that we can afford to cover the uninsured. What we can�t afford is to keep going without a universal health care system.

The truth to be gleaned from the fact that private insurance companies are willing to spend truckloads of money to ensure that they only insure the healthiest people is not that Corporations Are Evil per se--they're just acting rationally. Rather, the moral of the story is that while markets are valuable tools for many things they're horribly inefficient and grossly inequitable means of delivering health care, and having to fill in the gaps with such things as excessive use of emergency rooms also leads to more government spending than is necessary unless we're just willing to let uninsured people die the the streets. Until people figure this out, Americans will continue to spend far too much money for far too little.

--Scott Lemieux

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