Most Americans do want different health care: They want 2009 medicine at 1960 prices. Americans spent much less on health care in 1960 5 percent of gross domestic product as opposed to 18 percent now. They also spent much less — nothing, in fact — on computers, cellphones, and cable and satellite television.
I have seen Mr. Will use a lot of tricks in the past to make his points…But this one doesn’t wash.
Health care in 1960 was between you and your doctor. Just what conservatives say they want to preserve. Everyone had a doctor patient relationship…It was usually something you grew up with. And the uninsured office visit cost about $15…And almost all of America was uninsured.
The Hudson Institute’s Betsy McCaughey, writing in the American Spectator, says that in 1960 the average American household spent 53 percent of its disposable income on food, housing, energy and health care. Today the portion of income consumed by those four has barely changed — 55 percent. But the health-care component has increased while the other three combined have decreased. This is partly because as societies become richer, they spend more on health care — and symphonies, universities, museums, etc.
From a link posted by Paul Krugman on June 28 we have this tidbit…
In many ways, it is remarkable that “Uncertainty and the welfare economics of medical care” has stood the test of time. In 1963, medicine still consisted largely of a single physician treating a single patient with relatively rudimentary remedies and medications. Since that time, medicine has been revolutionized by technological advances in the understanding and treatment of illnesses, and rising incomes have stimulated high and increasing levels of spending.
In the United States of America in the early 1960s, government involvement with medical care was limited; insurance covered less than half of all medical expenditures, compared with about 85% today. Since then, health care has been transformed by, among other things, Medicare and Medicaid, malpractice, and managed care. The non-market institutions that Arrow had observed, such as trust that physicians would not be motivated by profit and beliefs that the medical profession could regulate itself, have eroded.
What I don’t see here is any comparison to the rest of the world, Mr. Will. I think it could be argued, quite successfully, that America isn’t alone among the industrialized nations that has seen it’s “wealth” rise.
A study of international health care spending levels published in the health policy journal Health Affairs in the year 2000, found that while the U.S. spends more on health care than other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the use of health care services in the U.S. is below the OECD median by most measures. The authors of the study conclude that the prices paid for health care services are much higher in the U.S. In 1996, 5% of the population accounted for more than half of all costs.
So it seems that even in the way he phrases the questions Mr. Will is spinning the story to fit his preconceived world view. As you can see below, when compared to other countries America is still being overcharged and under served…
The United States is clearly an outlier in its high level of per capita spending on health care, but other countries have also experienced a high rate of growth in such spending. Although growth rates vary by country and by period, most industrialized countries—even those with a financing system quite different from that in the United States—have experienced a substantial long-term rise in real spending on health care. In fact, growth rates in per capita spending in some countries have exceeded those in the United States during some periods.
Mr. Will closes with this statement…
The public, its attention riveted by the fiscal train wreck of trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, may be coming to the conclusion that we should leave bad enough alone.
And yet polls still show a vast majority of Americans are beginning to understand what Mr. Will seems to miss…American style health care quit working for most Americans quite some time ago…
 via George F. Will – A Regrettable ‘Fix’ on Health Care – washingtonpost.com.
 via Bulletin of the World Health Organization – Kenneth Arrow and the birth of health economics.
 via Health care in the United States – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
 via Technological Change and the Growth of Health Care Spending.