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August 07, 2007

Are Americans paying too much for health care?

Much bas been written about the premise that the cost for health care in the U.S. is too high, and statistics show that a much higher percentage of national income goes in the United States for health care than in other countries. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden points out factors that help put the issue into perspective.

"We do pay a higher percentage of our national income, about 16.5 percent, for health care in our country," says Dr. Walden, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialist. "It's much higher than in other countries. Typically, a western European country might pay 10, 12 or maybe 14 percent.

"But I think there are two issues that you need to address before you reach a conclusion that we are paying too much," he adds. "First of all you have to ask, 'Is our care better? And is our care quicker?'

"Now some statistics say yes -- not all. For example, there are some statistics that show that waiting time for procedures is a big issue in many other countries that have lower cost of health care than in the U.S.," Walden says. "Many statistics also indicate that our care, our technology, is better. So that's an issue you must address.

"Secondly you have to address the issue of how are you going to ration health care," he adds. "Any product has to be rationed. We all want more of everything. We can't have it. In the U.S., for health care, we use price much more as a rationing device, as we do in many other aspects of our economy.

"If you don't use price to ration, you are going to have to have something else. You are going to have to have rules. You are going to perhaps have bureaucratic procedures. So that's a question you have to address if you are going to move to the further question, 'Are we paying too much for health care?'"

Posted by deeshore at August 7, 2007 08:00 AM