Health Care Reform = A Stimulus Every Year

Much of the criticism against the recently-signed economic stimulus package focused on the cost. At roughly $800 billion, the package was worth 5% of the country's whole GDP last year. Surprisingly, that is less than what America overpays every year on health care. As a nation, we literally waste over $800 billion every year. If we adopt any one of the health care systems used by the dozens of first world nations with universal health care, we would save the equivalent of one stimulus package a year.

What do Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have in common?

They all have longer life expectancies than the United States. They all have lower infant mortality rates than the United States. They all have universal health care, and they all pay dramatically less for health care.

In 2005, the United States spent 15.2% of its GDP on health care-- the most of any industrialized world. Switzerland (the second highest among industrialized nations) spend only 11.4% of its GDP on health care. The industrialized nations listed above spent on average 9.3% of their GDP on health care. That is 6% less than in the United States-- or the equivalent $830 billion. If our health care costs were in line with the rest of the first world, we would save the equivalent of one stimulus package a year. Because of the scale of our country, we may never be able to make our health care system as efficient as Luxembourg or Finland. We should be able to at least reduce our spending to match that of Germany, France, or Switzerland. Even achieving that modest goal would save our country over half a trillion dollars a year.

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