Oh, but I remember my dear friends, I remember

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy (motto: like The Corner but with more degrees,) one David Bernstein writes:

Take the vaunted “lack of national health care” in the U.S. The U.S. in fact has a quasi-socialized health system, in the sense that the government pays most (yes, most!) of the health care costs […] Indeed, I remember seeing a study noted in the Economist a while ago showing that the private sector in the U.S. doesn’t account for a substantially larger share of health care spending than in many European nations

The government covers “most” of the health care costs? There is no significant difference with health care spending in Europe? Sadly, No! Since Bernstein offers only his recollections and no links, we can but guess at the source of his information. As for us, we shall offer data from the OECD, which seems like as good a place as any, and likely one of the few to have such figures available. Ready? [All figures released in October 2003, 2001 spending.]

In the US, public spending accounted for 44.2% of all health care spending. This compared with 72.1% in Belgium, 75% in Germany, 73.3% in Ireland, 68.5% in Portugal and 80.9% in the UK. (Of the EU countries listed, Greece came in with the lowest percentage at 56.1%.) That would mean that private sector spending on health care was 55.8% in the US, compared to 27.9%, 25%, 26.7%, 31.5% and 19.1%. (and 43.9%.) Not substantially larger? Yet again, we can only say Sadly, No!

So, who wants to email Mr. Bernstein?


Comments: 7


Don’t bother e-mailing him. He never admits it when you catch him. Just post about his illogic and he’ll try to refute you, and it’ll get funnier from there.


However, it is true that the U.S. government spends as much on health care as the Canadian government, per capita.

Perhaps what Bernstein meant was that the U.S. government could cover most of the health care costs and private sector spending could be cut in half, simply by moving to a single-payer system? 😉


However, it is true that the U.S. government spends as much on health care as the Canadian government, per capita.

According to the OECD (same link,) health care spending in Canada is US$2792 per capita, while in the US it is US$4,887. Adjusting for the relative share of public spending, that amounts to $1,954 for Canada, and $2,150 for the US. (We were curious to see the numbers, not disagreeing with you.) 😉


I could go on and on about the Volokh people, but the “busy, busy, busy” bottom line is, don’t believe too much of what you read over there. It is obviously a marketing tool to allow them to ingratiate themselves to the moderate right wing.


Who knows what these figures include. Federal workers’ health care costs? The capitalized costs of Va. hospitals? Tax subsidies or the lack thereof? Given that the OECD says 45% and Bernstein said over half (but not “way over half”) one can assume that he simply saw a study that counted government spending (or private spending) on health care slightly differently.


Yeeeahd, it’s csool




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