We Spend a Ton on Health Care, And We Get Lousy Service in Return


The 2013 version of the OECD’s “Health at a Glance” is out today, which means that if I’d waited a day I could have posted the very latest data on the number of doctors per capita in the United States compared to other countries. Not to worry, though: nothing much has changed since yesterday. We still don’t have very many doctors, even though we pay them far more than in most other countries.

In any case, “at a glance” means 209 pages to the OECD, so there’s plenty of other stuff to chew on today. I’ll pick out two tidbits for you. First, the chart below shows the number of doctor visits per year. We’re very low. Despite spending far, far more on health care than any other country—$8,500 per person compared to about $4,000 for other rich countries—we don’t get to see our doctors very often—about four times a year compared to six for the rest of the world. So does this mean that American doctors are lightly worked compared to other countries? As the next chart down shows, yes it does! The average American doc sees about 1,800 patients per year. The average for other rich countries is about 2,500. Again, this is despite the fact that American doctors are very highly paid.

Next up is a chart brought to my attention by Paul Waldman, and it could be one of the greatest and most instructive health care charts ever made. It shows what people think about their health. And despite the fact that by any objective measure, American health is mediocre at best and our health system is both expensive and lousy, Americans think they’re in great health. They think they’re in the best health of any country in the world!

This is Stockholm Syndrome at its finest. Apparently one of the reasons we don’t mind the lousy service and high cost of our health care system is because our health care system has convinced us that it’s great and, therefore, our health must be great too. We’re Number 1, and we won’t put up with anyone who tells us otherwise.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate