"Unless you've been living in the Himalayas, you know that huge numbers of Americans -- 46 million last year -- lack health insurance. By impressive majorities, Americans regard this as a moral stain. At the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Ted Kennedy echoed the view of many that health care is a "right" that demands universal insurance. This completely understandable view is, I think, utterly wrong."
"Economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution recently discovered this astonishing data: on average, annual health spending per person -- from all private and government sources -- is equal for the poorest and the richest Americans. In 2003, it was $4,477 for the poorest fifth and $4,451 for the richest.
Probably in no other area, notes Burtless, is spending so equal -- not in housing, clothes, transportation or anything. Why? One reason: government already insures more than a quarter of the population, including many poor. Medicare covers the elderly; Medicaid, many of the poor and their children; SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program), more children. Another reason stems from the skewing of health spending toward the very sick; 10 percent of patients account for two-thirds of spending. Regardless of income, people get thrust onto a conveyor belt of costly care: long hospital stays, many tests, therapies and surgeries."
"There is a basic dilemma that most Americans refuse to acknowledge. What we all want for ourselves and our families -- access to unlimited care paid for by someone else -- may be ruinous for us as a society."