The Truth About Foreign Health Care

Mitch McConnell was on the floor of the Senate the other day droning on about the nightmare of rationing and Soviet-style bread lines that are sure to result from the government guaranteeing affordable health care for everyone. Meanwhile, Jonathan Cohn actually traveled to foreign countries — specifically France and the Netherlands — to check out their health care systems. He reports that things are pretty awesome:

But in the course of a few dozen lengthy interviews, not once did I encounter an interview subject who wanted to trade places with an American. And it was easy enough to see why. People in these countries were getting precisely what most Americans say they want: Timely, quality care. Physicians felt free to practice medicine the way they wanted; companies got to concentrate on their lines of business, rather than develop expertise in managing health benefits. But, in contrast with the US, everybody had insurance. The papers weren’t filled with stories of people going bankrupt or skipping medical care because they couldn’t afford to pay their bills. And they did all this while paying substantially less, overall, than we do.


It’s also really important to just make a simple conceptual point. Right now health care is rationed by your ability to pay. And under any even remotely plausible vision of health care reform for the United States it would continue to be the case that people with the means and desire would be able to pay doctors to do pretty much whatever. Insofar as any “rationing” would take place at all it would be in terms of what the government is prepared to pay for.