12 September 2008

Samuelson on Health Care

It is widely assumed that health care, like most aspects of American life, shamefully shortchanges the poor. This is less true than it seems. Glance at the adjacent table (You'll have to link back to the article to see the table-- ed.). It comes from economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution (nota: Brookings is generally labeled a [modern] liberal organization) and is based on a government survey of health spending. Burtless was understandably astonished when he assembled these data: they show that, 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.

What's missing is delivery. Getting health care to the poor usually requires them to spend hours waiting. The personal incentive: don't go until you have to.

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