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You Have Better Health Care Than We Do

Abby Phillip of The Washington Post reports:

Seconds after praising his party's efforts to pass a new health-care bill that estimates said would leave millions uninsured, President Trump praised Australia's government-funded universal heath-care system.

“We have a failing health care — I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do,” a tuxedo-clad Trump said at a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Manhattan on Thursday.

Australia has a government-funded health-care system, called Medicare, that exists alongside private insurance. The system is funded in part by taxes, including on the wealthy.

Yes, Trump is correct. Australia definitely has better health care than the United States. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia spent 9.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care in 2015. And according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Australians born last year can expect to live to the age of 82.2 years, on average. For the United States, those numbers are 16.9 percent of GDP, and 79.8 years. Americans spend 82 percent more on health care than Australians as a percent of GDP, yet Americans can expect to die 2.4 years earlier than Australians, on average.

Public & Private Health Care Expenditures by Country, as a Percent of GDP

Source: OECD (2017), Health spending (indicator). doi: 10.1787/8643de7e-en (Accessed on 04 May 2017)

Source: OECD (2017), Health spending (indicator). doi: 10.1787/8643de7e-en (Accessed on 04 May 2017)

There are a lot of ways the United States could drastically reduce health-care spending while also improving health care outcomes, in aggregate. The bill passed today by the House of Representatives is clearly not one of them.

"We must have universal health care. Our objective [should be to] find an equivalent of the single-payer plan that is affordable, well administered, and provides freedom of choice….The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program can act as a guide for all health-care reform. It operates through a centralized agency that offers considerable range of choice. While this is a government program, it is also very much market-based. It allows private insurance companies to compete for this market. Once a year, participants can choose from plans which vary in benefits and costs."

— Donald Trump from his January 2000 book entitled "The America We Deserve"