American Healthcare: don’t worry, be happy

How is it possible to defend a healthcare system (America’s) that produces lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, and 47 million uninsureds despite spending twice what other people do? If you are Greg Mankiw, former Bush administration official and economic adviser to Mitt Romney, it’s all a matter of what you say. And what you don’t say:

On the uninsured:

What Mankiw says: It’s really only a “small percentage of the population that is uninsured” because many of the 47 million are “illegal immigrants”, or “could buy insurance, but don’t”. Don’t worry; for the “vast majority” the “system is working”

What he doesn’t say: 18,000 people die each year due to lack of insurance. Millions more are underinsured or don’t know what their insurance might actually cover–and consequently avoid checkups and preventive care. Half of people who enter bankruptcy cite medical bills a primary cause.

On lower life expectancy than other countries:

What Mankiw says: “Americans are more likely to be obese, leading to heart disease and other medical problems” which lowers life expectancy. This, however, is “a lifestyle choice”, and “says nothing about our healthcare system.” In addition–

“the obesity problem is largely attributable to our economy’s ability to supply high-calorie foods cheaply”

What he doesn’t say: all advanced economies can supply “high-calorie foods cheaply”, why is that only a problem for ours?

What he doesn’t say (but implies): the sick people ruining our healthcare numbers are mostly poor, fat people—many of them ethnic minorities—who don’t take care of themselves. Don’t worry, if you know what I mean

The high cost of American healthcare:

What Mankiw says: “increasing expenditures is a sign of success….it’s a modern form of progress”. It makes sense to “spend our growing prosperity on better health”.

What he doesn’t: hundreds of billions of dollars of American healthcare dollars go to administrative expenses no other country incurs. Additional hundreds of billions go to monopolist drug companies that no other country tolerates.

Mankiw’s bottom line: you don’t have a problem with our healthcare system, do you? Don’t worry. Be happy.

Mine: If this is the GOP’s best answer to the healthcare mess, I fear for their party.


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