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That’s right. Progressive tut-tutting about “health care disparities” notwithstanding, it turns out that we spend almost exactly the same amount of money on health care for the poor as we do for the rich. Robert Samuelson reports the following in Newsweek:
On average, annual health spending per person—from all private and government sources—is equal for the poorest and the richest Americans. In 2003, it was $4,477 for the poorest fifth and $4,451 for the richest.
This information comes from a study conducted by economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution, who was evidently not expecting such results:
Burtless was understandably astonished when he assembled these data … Probably in no other area, notes Burtless, is spending so equal—not in housing, clothes, transportation or anything.
Samuelson quotes the Burtless study to show that the health care debate often revolves around phony issues. To that end, he also points out that medical outcomes for the uninsured don’t differ significantly from those of the insured:
Outcomes differed little … After about six months, 20.4 percent of the insured and 20.9 percent of the uninsured judged themselves “better”; 32.2 percent of the insured and 35.2 percent of the uninsured rated themselves “worse.” The rest saw no change.
These data about spending and outcomes will surprise many and be denied by many others. But if we are ever going to fix health care, we will have to stop allowing everyone to bring his own “facts” to the debate.
+ May 2008
+ May 2007