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The U.S. Health Care System Is Terrible, In 1 Enraging Chart

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Hello, did you know the American health-care system is terrible? It is. Don't let John Boehner tell you otherwise.

If you're unconvinced, here is a chart that demonstrates its terribleness. It shows, using OECD data, how much money different countries spend on health care per person, charted against life expectancy in each of those countries. As you can see, there is a pretty close relationship between health-care spending and life expectancy. Except for one very, very terrible country. Can you spot it?

terrible health care

Yes, among this group of big countries, the U.S. spends far and away more on health care than any other. And yet it has among the lowest life expectancies of any developed country. People live longer in pretty much every country in Europe, including Greece, where the economy has been wracked by austerity for years.

"What bothers me most is not that we’re all the way on the right, or even that we are lower than we should be," Aaron Carroll, professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine wrote on his blog of the chart. "It’s that we are all alone. We are spending so, so, so much more than everyone else."

This confirms what we pretty much already knew about the terribleness of U.S. health care. The U.S. ranks 46th among 48 developed economies in health-care efficiency, according to a Bloomberg ranking, below China, Iran, Colombia and, you know, pretty much everybody else.

Why is our system so terrible? Largely because it is built for profit. Unlike many other countries, the government has no role in either providing care or setting prices, and so prices skyrocket. It's also too complex, which is one reason the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature reform law, has gotten off to such a bad start.

The health care law is supposed to help with the cost problem somewhat. But it is built on the existing privatized system, which means it will probably not make a significant difference. A public option, also known as a "single payer" plan, would help. But that still seems like a pipe dream -- although maybe Obamacare's clumsy rollout will bring it closer to reality.

(h/t Aaron Carroll and Justin Wolfers)

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