Healthcare is a subject which I tend to avoid. But a rather staggering graphic accompanying a David Leonhardt article from the New York Times prompted me to think about why the U.S. has such high healthcare costs compared to other countries. The gut response is that the U.S. might be more expensive, but must be more effective. This graphic has that covered. It isn't.
Data like this leads those who want heavier government involvement in healthcare to tremble with certainty. It inspired Leonhardt to argue for healthcare rationing. I have two different suggestions to reduce healthcare costs that I have not heard discussed very much: get more doctors and malpractice tort reform.
Ugly. I am going to assume that the picture this graphic paints is accurate. It may not be. For example, maybe a greater percentage of all people with the given ailments are treated in the U.S., while in the other countries shown only those who have the best chance of survival are treated. I have no evidence to back this up, but selection bias should always come into question when looking at such charts. But like I said, let's assume it's accurate.
This graphic raises two problems: First, healthcares cost are too high. Second, healthcare appears to be less effective than it should be. Although my second suggestion only addresses the first of those problems, my first suggestion has both covered.
Get More Doctors
Anyone who has even the most basic grasp of economics knows that, when supply increases, price decreases. If we had more doctors, and other medical professionals, healthcare costs would go down.
So how do you get more doctors? Maybe rather than plowing billions into universal healthcare, the government should plow millions into universities for medical programs.
First, they could use this money to subsidize medical-field tuition. The prospect of paying back easily over $100,000 in medical school loans must deter many smart, capable college graduates from giving it a shot. Instead, they flock to careers like law or finance, where they can make just as much or more money, but owe less money to do so. Even undergraduate degrees in nursing or medical fields could be more scholarship-based to encourage careers in healthcare.
Second, universities can use this funding to create programs that don't currently exist. More medical schools or other healthcare-related programs mean more doctors and healthcare workers.
More doctors might also make healthcare more effective. Lighter workloads mean doctors will be less stressed and can take better care of patients.
Malpractice Tort Reform
This is very basic and popular in some circles on the right. Malpractice insurance for doctors is insanely high and grows each year. It causes doctors to charge more for services to cover those costs. But for lawyers, malpractice lawsuits can be incredibly profitable. We need to make it less profitable.
Unfortunately, given that the huge portion of Congress consisting of lawyers who got rich through legal fees, tort reform actually happening seems like a long shot. There's no question, however, that it would help the problem of healthcare costs.
Feel free to share your thoughts on these suggestions. I don't claim that they'd solve the problem entirely, but I do think they could help.