One of the most common arguments used by conservatives is that healthcare is actually not expensive enough and if people had more financial investment in their healthcare, they would make better decisions. Mitt Romney jumped onto that bandwagon in a town hall meeting in Wisconsin on Monday.
Here is the video:
If you’re unfortunate enough to get a very serious condition and you have the insurance most people have. You pay the deductible and then it’s free! And so, you’ll go to a doctor and a hospital. You’d never think of asking about how much it’s going to cost because you don’t pay the bill — the insurance company does. In other countries like Switzerland, they have the patient pay 20 percent of the bill for elective surgeries and of course if it’s an emergency they don’t. But that gives you the chance to shop around….I’m also not naive enough to think that there would be a heck of a lot of problems that would be better run if we got the government out and turned back to the free market.
There are several problems with Romney’s solution, the first being that Americans are very invested in the healthcare system. On average, a family of four pays $8000 a year in-out-of pocket expenses and that number continues to rise as healthcare costs rise.
The second problem is practicality. Healthcare is not a commodity like gasoline, which is basically the same, no matter where you go. If someone is sick, they want the best doctor, not the cheapest. By hiring the best doctors, patients often save money in the long run. A less expensive orthopedic surgeon, for example, might use non-state of the art technology, resulting in a need to ‘go back under’ with a few years. A better doctor might be able to diagnose with fewer tests.
The third problem is that there is very little room to shop around. One of the biggest reasons for rising healthcare costs are medical monopolies. If every hospital, every testing clinic and every lab in any given area is owned by just one or two corporations, is there really choice in healthcare?
The final problem is that Romney is cherry-picking his countries. Switzerland has the third highest per capita healthcare spending rate. One of the lowest in the world is New Zealand, which according to 2008 figures, spent just $2,683 per capita for healthcare, including government contribution, insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. By contrast, the US spent $7,538 and Switzerland spent $4,627. People in New Zealand averaged just $372 out-of-pocket while in the US and Switzerland, the average was $912 and $756, respectively. Both New Zealand and Switzerland rank higher than the US in average life expectancy.
Romney’s theory has been fully debunked when comparing to systems like Germany and Canada. Both have virtually no out-of-pocket costs and neither country is experiencing rampant medical inflation.