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Leading policy-makers and scholars explain how market forces, deregulation, and consumer choice can work to improve health care for all Americans.

Commentary

The Health of the Union
George Melloan, Wall Street Journal, 1-31-06

Melloan argues that critics who lament America’s “health care crisis” are exaggerating U.S. health woes as a stalking horse for a government takeover of all health care. While admitting that our health care system is expensive, he points out that it is not as beleaguered as many might imagine.

A common thesis of the chattering classes for several years has been that American medical care is in "crisis." It follows for some that drastic solutions are in order requiring greater government involvement than already exists -- which is considerable.
There is little to justify these opinions. Unlike countries that have government-operated universal health-care systems, the U.S. doesn't ration medical care. It's no accident that Canadians come south to get procedures; they sometimes have to wait months for Canadian national health to deliver. …
To be sure, the U.S. has higher infant mortality and lower life-expectancy rates than most of Europe. Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore are well ahead of both continents in these common measures of health-care efficacy. But the U.S. population is more heterogeneous in living standards and cultural patterns than the nations with the best scores. Its numbers could stand improvement certainly, but they in no way justify the word "crisis." Average life expectancy of American women, for example, is now 80, and for men, 75, compared to 82 and 76 for Germans.

The U.S. also leads the globe in medical and pharmaceutical health-care innovations, thanks to our greater use of market incentives. There are real problems with U.S. health care, to be sure, but none of them would be solved by more heavy handed government regulation.



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