TNR on National Healthcare

TNR ON NATIONAL HEALTHCARE….It would be belaboring the obvious to say that the liberal blogosphere has its differences with The New Republic. Today, though, in Frank Foer’s first issue as editor, they go a very long way toward redeeming themselves:

Since President Clinton’s health care plan unraveled in 1994 ? a debacle that this magazine, regrettably, abetted ? liberals have grown chastened and confused, afraid to think big ideas. Such reticence had its proper time and place; large-scale political and substantive failures demand introspection, not to mention humility. But it is time to be ambitious again. And the place to begin is the very spot where liberalism left off a decade ago: Guaranteeing every American citizen access to affordable, high-quality medical care.

That’s precisely right. Liberals need to be ambitious again, and guaranteed healthcare for all is a vision worth fighting for. As TNR points out, our current system is both enormously expensive and badly broken:

Perversely, our extra spending doesn’t seem to buy us better medical care. According to virtually every meaningful statistic, from simple measures like infant mortality to more carefully constructed data like “potential years of life lost,” Americans are no healthier (and are frequently unhealthier) than the citizens of countries with universal health care. Nor do Americans always get “more” medical care, as is commonly assumed.

The citizens of Japan, for example, have more CT scanners and MRI machines than we do. And the French, whose system the World Health Organization recently declared the planet’s best, have more hospital beds. They get more doctor visits, too, perhaps because their access to physicians is nearly unfettered ? a privilege even most middle-class Americans surrendered with the spread of managed care. In fact, aside from cost, the measure on which the United States most conspicuously stands out from other advanced nations may be public opinion: In a series of polls a few years ago, just 40 percent of us said we were “fairly or very” satisfied with our health care system, fourth worst of the 17 nations surveyed.

Read the whole thing. As TNR’s editorial implies, if we’re going to join this battle it’s critical that we cut through the scare tactics of the right and finally tell the American public the simple truth about national healthcare in other countries: that it works better than American healthcare. As our creaky private sector system increasingly sputters and breaks down, the seemingly “old” idea of universal healthcare is more relevant than it’s ever been, and TNR’s conclusion is exactly correct: “Government isn’t the best way to provide all Americans with health security. It’s the only way. And it’s time for liberalism to say so openly.”