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Dear David Brooks,

October 14, 2008

In your most recent column, you wrote:

Finally, there will be a health care plan…. In the face of these rising costs, Obama will spend billions more to widen coverage. Obama’s plan has many virtues, but the cost-saving measures are chimerical.

Why do you believe that this will cost us more money? Twenty (roughly) other major countries have universal care (obtained in a variety of ways), they ALL spend much less per capita than we do, and almost all of them live longer and healthier lives. If we could run a universal health care system more efficiently than even ONE of these countries, we would save hundreds of billions of dollars.

I get my information from nationmaster.com — some guy has nothing better to do with his time than collect statistics from reputable sources (CIA fact book, OECD, you name it) and publish them on-line.

For spending (we’re #1): http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_spe_per_per-health-spending-per-person

For life expectancy (we’re #44!): http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_lif_exp_at_bir_tot_pop-life-expectancy-birth-total-population

And if you follow your nose, you can find more.

And how bad is it? If we attained Spanish levels of efficiency (I do so like saying that), we could take the money we spend now, and provide good health care to every person in the North, Central, and South America, and have a little left over. For everyone except the Canadians, it would be better health care.

Universal health care (in the style of these 20 other countries) should make the economy more efficient, too — people with health problems (like, ahem, pregnancy, widely treated as a “pre-existing condition”, how’s that for family-unfriendly?) get stuck in their jobs because they lose coverage if they change jobs. Companies that cover their employees (most of them, still) are paying a brutal tax compared to their foreign competitors, who at worst only pay their employees’ costs in a more efficient system.

Notice I haven’t said a dad-gum thing about morality or rights yet — I think we can justify universal health care for the good of the country, as well as simple greed — I really like the idea of getting better care for less money. But our present system is also immoral.

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