Thursday, March 18, 2010

Congratulations, America: you're a 19th century society.

I understand that people have different opinions on the best way to provide and pay for healthcare. I don't understand people pretending that the current system is OK. The US has, depending on what specific metric you choose, between the 30th and 40th best healthcare in the world, at twice the cost (as a fraction of GDP) of any other developed economy. On infant mortality, for instance, the US ranks on par with countries like Cuba, Poland and Slovakia.

In the US, if you're poor and sick you're pretty much screwed. If you lose your job and get sick, you're pretty much screwed. And if you're middle class and employed, you're still increasingly screwed. And yet, America is full of people who apparently think that because they personally are not unemployed or sick today, all is well.

We need to stop thinking about healthcare as "insurance" and treat it like education: something that a rich, modern, civilized country provides because it's better for all of us for each of us to be healthy. We should stop talking about the "public option" and instead talk about the "private option": as with education, everybody should be entitled to healthcare at a level appropriate to a large, wealthy country; and those who choose to spend their own money should be able to opt for private provision for whatever private reasons they may have.

Intriguingly, US healthcare is already like education. Unfortunately, it's like education in Victorian England. If you're rich, you can afford a tutor or a private school. If you're poor, you work in a mine or a factory, get sick, and die young. Congratulations, America: you're a 19th century society.

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