Let's be clear on Christie's claim about the U.S. health care system's superlative quality.
Last night at the Republican convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had this to say in the latter third of his speech:
Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.
Let's stop right there. "The world's greatest health-care system"? There are a lot of wonderful things about the United States -- and not to get all Newsroom on you -- but if the last few years of political debate have proven anything, it's that the health-care system is not one of them. It's complex, it's expensive, and it's riddled with inefficiencies.
Exactly what metric was Christie using? It's not clear. Perhaps he was talking about how our system has performed historically. But even in the past, we've underwhelmed. A 2000 World Health Organization report placed the United States 37th in the world.
Like any ranking that's been through a mathematical rinsing process, the WHO report came under criticism, but we have a good amount of subsequent studies in this area, none of which suggest that we're even a serious contender for "greatest health-care system."
It's an uphill climb by any measure to argue that the United States has the world's best health-care system, bar none. If the claim were true, then under no circumstance should the United States find itself behind its peers. Under very few circumstances, at any rate, if we're being generous. And yet... Let's start by considering these two facts from the OECD: We spend at least -- at least -- 53 percent more on health care per capita than any other nation in the developed world. We also pay more than three times what the British or the French pay out of pocket per capita on health care -- that's the third-highest rate among all OECD nations.