Reality check

Obama, Warren, and Tierney may have won, but the Jets, Mets, and Knickerbockers won’t be winning anything of note anytime soon. The status quo really does have its good points!

Alternative to Obama-care?

Philip Greenspun of MIT and Web development fame is working on a draft of an essay on how to reform health care. Sound like a dry topic? It isn’t. Here’s a sample from the rough draft:

… Suppose that you could give up two years of life expectancy in exchange for the following: paid-for housing, paid-for cars, paid-for college, paid-for vacations, paid-for children. Instead of living 78 years, you’d expect to live 76, but you’d never have to work full-time and could probably pack a lot of enjoyment into those 76 years because you wouldn’t be a slave to day-to-day expenses.

Let’s compare the U.S. to Mexico. Mexicans share our continent, our love for soda and corn syrup, and our tendency towards chubbiness (source). We spend approximately $8500 per year per American on health care and live to the age of 78. A Mexican can expect to live to age 76. How much do Mexicans spend on health care? Their per-person GDP is only about $13,000 per year, and they supposedly spend about 6 percent of GDP on health care (source) so $800 per person is a good estimate.

An American will spend $600,000 in order to add two years to the end of his life. Those two years may very well be spent in an intensive care unit or a nursing home and certainly are not likely to be spent on the tennis court or visiting the Venice Biennale.

For that $600,000, an American could have the following:

  • a house, free and clear of all mortgages (median price for a single family house sold nationwide in May 2009 was $170,000)
  • a lifetime supply of automobiles, assuming $20,000 per car, a 10-year life per car, and 50 years of driving ($100,000)
  • 50 vacations for a family of four (average cost $1600; total of $80,000)
  • a college education ($25,000 of tuition for four years at a public university)
  • two children, reared to the age of 17 ($125,000 per kid, average cost for a basic family (source); note that a pair of Americans could have four children, all of whose costs would be completely paid for out of this $600,000)
  • $75,000 in walking-around money

– Philip Greenspun from rough draft of Health Care Reform for the United States

Greenspun’s longer draft covers a great deal more and offers many other specific recommendations for improving the current U.S. health care system. Read and comment on the full essay.