That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
As outlined by the blog Random Critical Analysis, U.S. health-care expenditures go well beyond what the U.S.’s relatively high per capita GDP might lead us to expect. But viewed through the lens of consumption behavior, American health-care spending is typical of this nation’s habits and mores. Relative to GDP, Americans consume a lot more than Europeans, and our health-care spending is another example of that tendency.
And to channel Megan McArdle:
Furthermore, we shouldn’t take the lower health-care spending in many European nations as a sign of better health-care policy. It’s a reflection of a broader cultural difference. If the U.S. someday did move to a single payer system for health care, it probably would be a relatively expensive version of that idea. The U.S., of course, does have a partial single payer system through Medicare, and it is still more expensive per beneficiary than its European equivalents.
Keep in mind that high consumption expenditures also help explain various “anecdotes of outrage,” such as billings for $400 band-aids and the like. To some extent such charges are fraud, and to some extent they are simply an unusual allocation of fixed costs. Both practices are more likely in a non-Spartan society keen on spending a lot of money on health care and the very latest.