I expect many saw the recent report from Elizabeth Bradley at the Yale School of Public Health, The U.S. Health Care Paradox: How Spending More is Getting Us Less. If you haven’t seen it, take a look. It’s brief. The central point was in this graph:
When I saw it, I copied the graph for a post, but then got involved in something else and it got passed over for a while. Yesterday, I found it, and wanted to separate the pieces. I tried to do it graphically, but it was slow going, so I went looking for her data source. I’ve looked for where people get the figures on Healthcare spending before without much luck. But this time, I ended up on the OECD site – and found the mother lode for this kind of economic data. OECD stands for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And their statistical site, OECD.Stats is a cache for a data-hound to die for. Amazing amounts of world economic data awaiting free downloading [if you can figure out how to use it]. So, back to my quest, parsing that graph:
The graphs on the bottom are the elements [same order and relative scale as above]. It shows what I thought it would show. You could literally cut off the excess $ we spend on healthcare and fill the hole in our social spending. That’s Bradley’s point. We spend the most on health [without being the most healthy] and are in the basement on social spending. I expect we all knew that, but not the magnitude.
These numbers are all corrected and expressed as the percent of the Gross Domestic Product [GDP]. That’s how economists correct for the disparity of wealth in different countries. It’s a measurement the yearly generated treasure, and it’s available world-wide:
My take: we pay a lot to our profitable healthcare industry, but we’re a third world country in our social spending. Having arrived in the land of data, I thought I’d look at the time variable as well. So after some eye-crossing and downloading, I ended up with this graph:
This is from two different databases in the OECD pantheon which obviously don’t exactly cover the same overall period and have different sampling rates, but combined, they add something to the story [remember these are corrected figures - % GDP]. First, Our overall Social spending is pretty close to level. I was surprised. For all the bruhaha over such things in Washington, it just kind of trucks along. I guess the point of our peculiarest of forms of government is that it allows us to swing back and forth on the front page, but dampens things out in the long run. We are on top of the heap and on the bottom at the same time. Living where I do, I really do see that every day, a poor rural county in the South that also has gated communities where immigrants from corporate America retire to play golf and be wealthy together in our beautiful mountains.