Creative Destruction

April 21, 2006

That’s a lot of random facts

Filed under: Link Farms — Adam Gurri @ 12:43 pm

I know we've had our differences where vomiting out numbers as evidence is concered, but Nationmaster and Statemaster are so very addictive.

So next time you find yourself losing footing in a debate, just shout: "Oh yeah?  Well what about Iceland, who has the most films produced per capita?  Didn't think about that, now, did you?" 

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12 Comments »

  1. Some surprising statistics there, such as:
    USA ranks 5th in Per capita government expenditure on health in international dollars, well above most industrial countries.
    (More than Switzerland, Sweden, Canada…)

    Perhaps this does not mean what I think it does…
    So the US government uses more tax money to health care than governments in countries with universal health care systems do, and you still have to buy the whole damn thing yourself from private insurance company?

    I mean, come on. That makes no sense.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 22, 2006 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  2. Medicare spends billions providing expensive acute care that keeps very old people alive for relatively short periods of time. Other countries generally do a lot less of that type of care. My understanding is that Medicare pays until you’re dead; Britain’s NHS and similar systems stop paying once you hit a certain age/infirmity level. That explains the bulk of the logical disparity between the figures and the facts on the ground.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 22, 2006 @ 11:44 pm | Reply

  3. Not that I intend to turn this into a health care discussion, but…

    Medicare spends billions providing expensive acute care that keeps very old people alive for relatively short periods of time. Other countries generally do a lot less of that type of care.

    Yes, there might be some truth in this.
    Medicare does pay until end of life which is which why last-year-of-life expenses constitute 22 percent of all medical expenditures in the USA, and 26 % of medicare costs.
    Then again, numbers are not that different in Norway. (Old study, so today the percentage is likely to be higher.)

    But following part was somewhat inaccurate:

    Britain’s NHS and similar systems stop paying once you hit a certain age/infirmity level. That explains the bulk of the logical disparity between the figures and the facts on the ground.

    This is indeed how we treat older people in Europe. However, the bulk of cost disparity is explained by the profitable and government-controlled sale of Soylent Green. Of cource, you could say that these facts are kind of “related”.

    By the way, ever been in those other countries, Bob?

    Comment by Anonymous — April 23, 2006 @ 7:35 am | Reply

  4. I’ve visited Germany and Italy fairly extensively. And I used to live in Iran.

    Comment by Robert — April 23, 2006 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  5. So the US government uses more tax money to health care than governments in countries with universal health care systems do, and you still have to buy the whole damn thing yourself from private insurance company?

    Rather than respond to this myself, I’d recommend reading this article which describes how between private insurance companies and public medicare, fewer Americans actually pay out-of-pocket than Canada.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — April 23, 2006 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  6. And I used to live in Iran.

    So much is explained. 😉

    Comment by mythago — April 23, 2006 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  7. Don’t make me crush you underneath a pillar.

    Actually, my family was there during the secular years. Good times…except for the people being tortured, of course. They weren’t having much fun.

    Comment by Robert — April 23, 2006 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  8. Adam:

    Both Canada and the US are extremes, most European countries are in fact mixed-market with regard to health care. Canada =/= Europe.

    There is a definite false dichotomy between “private or socialized?”. Banning private health care (as Canada has done) strikes me as pure idiocy. I’m not sure if completely privatized is better than the mixed market model, though.

    Robert:

    I bet the food was good. It tends to be, around the mediterranian and to east of it.

    Comment by Tuomas — April 23, 2006 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

  9. Oh, sorry, actually I don’t know that much about the US system. But I do know that Canada has completely socialized health care, and Nordic countries do not.

    Comment by Tuomas — April 23, 2006 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

  10. Robert:

    I’ve visited Germany and Italy fairly extensively.

    Let me take a wild guess: You didn’t see piles of elderly people around hospitals complaining “I’m not dead!”
    Frankly, your previous suggestion that patients could be abandoned by single-payer systems after a “certain age/infirmity level” was surprisingly inaccurate, despite the potential cost-effectiveness. Not that “have you actually been there” argument is ever that relevant.

    Adam:
    The author of that article did claim that “Even in Canada, the percent of health care costs paid out of pocket is slightly higher than in the United States.”

    Yet the actual sum paid out-of-pocket per capita is naturally much higher in USA than Canada. About 66% according to WHO statistics

    Also the so called out-of-pocket costs are only relatively small part of total health expenditure in both countries. Government and pre-paid costs dominate. So this is somewhat minor point. Still it is apparently the only time when the author who seems to be somewhat conservative finds actual comparisons of real-world data between countries useful, despite the fact that he writes about healthcare systems a lot.
    Mostly his articles are mere rhetoric and speculations.

    There is nothing wrong with his sophistry skills:

    Krugman and Wells point out that other countries use government-financed health care, and that in those countries health care outcomes are not notably worse while spending is less. They would have us believe that people in other countries receive the same treatment at lower cost. (Emphasis mine)

    Notice how he weasels his way around word “better” simultaneously implying the opposite and avoiding outright lying.

    Anyway, I’ll admit that the initial question is explained by the very high costs of US health care due to many different factors. Some no doubt unnecessary.
    It still does not make much sense politically , as one would expect those who fund the system via taxes to expect something in return.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 24, 2006 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

  11. Also the so called out-of-pocket costs are only relatively small part of total health expenditure in both countries. Government and pre-paid costs dominate. So this is somewhat minor point.

    Not really. I don’t see him accusing Canada of having a massive out-of-pocket spending rate. He’s just shooting down the whole “THERE ARE FORTY MILLION PEOPLE WITHOUT HEALTHCARE IN AMERICA!!! WE ARE LETTING THEM DIE IN THE STREETS!” meme by pointing out that most of the people who don’t have private insurance have public support.

    Mostly his articles are mere rhetoric and speculations.

    Is there a reason for you to say this, other than perhaps to indulge in smugness?

    Notice how he weasels his way around word “better” simultaneously implying the opposite and avoiding outright lying.

    Notice how he doesn’t make a pin-down argument for something that’s difficult to quantify, avoiding being misleading and implying what direction his own personal beliefs sway.

    It still does not make much sense politically , as one would expect those who fund the system via taxes to expect something in return.

    Well, since we are among the most universally covered by a combination of public and private support, I’d say we are getting something in return.

    Comment by Adam Gurri — April 25, 2006 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  12. 1. Maybe you see something in Mr Klings article that I fail to. When he said:

    Even in Canada, the percent of health care costs paid out of pocket is slightly higher than in the United States. Americans’ high rate of insulation, combined with the abundant availability of trained specialists and the latest equipment, accounts for the high level of health care spending in this country. I hope that for the most part this is cost-effective, but I believe that the issue deserves careful study.

    How does this (or anything else in the article) point out anything about how many people are insured or not?

    2. If that kind of meme does exist it is certainly exaggeration and deserves to be dismissed. But are there about 40 million people without insurance? Yes. Even Mr Kling argues that catastrophic health insurance should be mandatory.

    3. I apologize if calling them rhetoric is smug. I did give the reason: there is very rarely any real-world data to support his conclusions. There is nothing wrong with rhetoric, but if you basically argue against singe-payer healthcare idea why not use actual examples.

    4. Did you read the whole sentence?
    Krugman and Wells point out that other countries use government-financed health care, and that in those countries health care outcomes are not notably worse while spending is less.

    That was not what they pointed out. They very clearly argued that other countries have better outcomes (in chapter 5). Mr Kling somewhat misrepresents this argument. Krugman and Wells also argue that USA does not seem to “stand out in the quality of care” mainly because of national health statistics and studies like this.

    Still, Kling argues that:

    In fact, Americans consume more premium medicine than citizens of other countries. To some extent, this may produce better results that are obscured in the data used to compare health outcomes on a national basis.

    Maybe indeed. But is it very convincing to dismiss virtually all national health indicators and argue that US healthcare is still better in some ways that cannot be measured?

    Notice how he doesn’t make a pin-down argument for something that’s difficult to quantify, avoiding being misleading and implying what direction his own personal beliefs sway.

    Difficult does not mean impossible. Personal beliefs? I admit that it is my personal
    belief that we can look at actual facts of health care and despite the fact that they are complex and seldom 100% accurate they tell us something about how real world works.
    I’m sure we all agree so far.

    Do the statistics presentend for example by the WHO
    prove that in many ways some other countries have better health care systems than USA?
    I think they do, but perhaps we just agree to disagree.

    5. Basically my point was they do not get as much in return from goverment unlike tax-payers in other OECD countries.
    Anyway, …we are among the most universally covered by a combination of public and private support.

    Do you have any data on that? I don’t think you mean to imply that paying slighty less out of pocket after spending more via taxes and much more as pre-paid plans means universally covered.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 25, 2006 @ 1:05 pm | Reply


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