It doesn’t seem to matter how much evidence is presented that privatization doesn’t always lead to more better results – the dogma of the free market is so strong that rock solid proof must be ignored to make way for ideology. Take this chart from the International Federation of Health Plans, a group of health insurance industry leaders that recently released a 2012 price report that looked at US health care costs compared with other countries:
As you can see, going to hospital for a day in America costs on average 10 times the amount it would in Argentina. Jeffrey Young at the Huff Post has posted more of the comparative charts, and the evidence is frightening. US health care costs across the board, from a trip to see your physician to having bypass surgery, are all far, far higher than other countries used in the comparison.
Perhaps the most compelling chart is the one that visualizes how much America spends on healthcare as a percentage of GDP, almost double the OECD average:
Sadly, none of this evidence ever makes much difference when it comes to health care reform. Insurance lobbyists have spent millions of dollars convincing the American public that privatization leads to more choice, lower costs, and better results, even when there is no evidence to support it. The US consistently ranks lower that most other OECD nations when it comes to health care outcomes, and as the charts above indicates, at a far higher cost.
Far from being the utopic socialist reform the insurance warned everyone Obama’s health care proposals would be, Obamacare merely better regulates the massively inefficient health care ‘system’ (if you can call it that). Sadly, it also forces everyone has to buy private insurance without giving them the option of a public plan.
And why was the public option forced out of the reform package? There’s a very simple answer to this: It would have been too efficient.
In other words, a public plan would have lowered costs and become far cheaper than other private plans given the government wouldn’t have had to spend money on marketing or paying CEO’s massive salaries. The government could have also bought prescription drugs at a far lower cost given their enormous purchasing power, passing the savings on through lower premiums. How do we know all of this would have been possible? As the New England Journal of Medicine reports, we see it happening when looking at government health care plans that already exist, like Medicare and Medicaid.
This isn’t to argue that state run programs are always more efficient. Privatization and for-profit models aren’t always a bad thing, and the government doesn’t always do a great job running many of its programs. But when it comes to delivering cheaper medical care more efficiently, it’s abundantly clear that a government model works best.
Obamacare does go some of the way in driving costs down, and given the political climate it was passed in, it was no small achievement. But the truth is that there is no serious way to argue that the free market delivers better results for the public. Because the evidence shows it doesn’t.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.