Market efficiency and health care

They are truly wonderful, the efficiencies of the market.

For several decades now, those who advocate privatizing virtually every government program preach about how much more efficient private business is, how much more can be accomplished with less drain on the public coffers.

The right-wing ideologues also advocate running government programs more like businesses — you know, efficient, not wasting the taxpayers’ money, getting the job done without so much political fuss, just practical old American business know-how.

Well, now we have proof about how right they are: not at all!

A recently issued study of health care in six industrialized countries (Germany, New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Canada and the U.S.) has concluded that the one with the most private enterprise, the one where the market rules most, is the least efficient of all.

How can that be?

It turns out that not covering tens of millions of people is not good health care. It turns out that building a system based on guaranteeing profits to HMOs, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, medical manufacturers and similar “well-run,” private, “efficient” businesses creates less health care.

The U.S. spends almost double anyone else per capita on health care, and gets less. That’s efficiency for you!

“The U.S. health care system ranks last compared with five other nations on measures of quality, access, efficiency, equity and outcomes,” says the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group that studies health care issues and issued the report.

Too bad the study didn’t measure profits, the one area where the U.S. health care system does better than anyone else. Here’s the thing — our health care system really is quite efficient — it’s just that what it is efficient about is producing profits, not producing health care.

What a surprise! National health care, eliminating private insurance from health care, and covering everyone, all create a system which has better health outcomes, is more efficient and equitable and fair, and is more healthy for everyone.

Private health care is all about the money and not so much about health care. Turns out that’s not only not good health care, it’s not very efficient either!

Marc Brodine (marcbrodine @inlandnet.com) is chair of the Washington State Communist Party.