2010 - %3, November

America's Awful Healthcare

| Mon Nov. 1, 2010 1:02 AM EDT

We may spend more on healthcare than any other country in the world, but hey — at least we get a first class system in return for all that dough, right? I mean, aside from all those poor schmoes who don't have health insurance. At least the rest of us get great healthcare, don't we?

No. To go along with his recent series of posts on healthcare costs, Aaron Carroll just finished up another series on healthcare quality. The chart on the right shows where we stand compared to other rich countries:

With the exception of available technology, we do not rate well against comparable countries. And that’s the take home message. We can argue about which metric is best to describe the quality of a health care system, but it almost doesn’t matter what you pick. Don’t like population statistics? Fine. Choose another. But unless you think the only important thing is how many MRI machines are available, we’re still going to look bad. Not only does the system not perform up to snuff, but pretty much every stakeholder I discussed agreed that it’s not good.

The entire series is here. The whole thing is worth a read.

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FDR's Web

| Mon Nov. 1, 2010 12:45 AM EDT

Ross Douthat makes a few good points and a few not-so-good ones in his column today, but this paragraph just confuses me. He's talking about Barack Obama's agenda of the past two years:

Legislative maneuverings — the buy-offs and back-room deals, the inevitable coziness with lobbyists — exposed the weakness of modern liberal governance: it tends to be stymied and corrupted by the very welfare state that it’s seeking to expand. Many of Barack Obama’s supporters expected him to be another Franklin Roosevelt, energetically experimenting with one program after another. But Roosevelt didn’t have to cope with the web of interest groups that’s gradually woven itself around the government his New Deal helped build. And while Obama twisted in these webs, the public gradually decided that it liked bigger government more in theory than in practice.

Interest groups spawned by the New Deal? The healthcare bill had to cope with a bunch of business lobbies, including the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the AMA. The finance reform bill had to cope with Wall Street. Cap-and-trade had to cope with electric utilities and geographical rivalries. Immigration reform, which never even got off the ground, had to deal with xenophobia on one side and business interests that wanted a continued flow of cheap labor on the other. And on all of these issues, Obama had to deal with a monolithic Republican Party that filibustered his every move, refused to bargain in anything close to good faith, and voted nearly unanimously against everything he proposed.

I'm just not seeing the shadow of New Deal interest groups there. These seem like the same old interest groups that FDR and every other progressive have had to fight since forever. I think you could make a case that AARP fits Douthat's description, but that's about it. What am I missing here?