Best care anywhere?

BEST CARE ANYWHERE?…. With some regularity, Republican opponents of health care reform will defend the existing system, not only as adequate, but as superior to the rest of the planet. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) was recently on “Meet the Press” and argued, “[W]e have the finest health care in the world now.”

Around the same time, Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R) of Alabama argued that the existing U.S. system is “the best … the world has ever known.”

Silly hyperbole notwithstanding, the strategy seems premised on appealing to Americans’ civic pride — the American system couldn’t possibly be a dysfunctional mess, because it’s the American system.

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that Americans aren’t buying into the rhetoric.

According to Americans the United States does not have the best health care in the world. Most see our health care as average (32%) or below average (27%) when compared with health care in other industrialized countries. Only 15% support the often-used political talking point that America has the best health care in the world; 23% say it is above average.

Adam Serwer highlights a key observation from the report: “The survey also notes that the more money you make, the more likely you are to believe that America does have the best health care system in the world. That, I think, says a great deal about the inherent class bias present in our national debate on health care — those most likely to give you the evening news are also those most likely to think there’s nothing wrong with the health care system at all.”

I’d just add that there’s been a fairly aggressive effort underway for years to characterize health care systems outside the United States as dystopian nightmares. While some Americans are able to enjoy “the best health care system the world has ever known,” the right has argued, non-Americans are forced to endure rationing, life-threatening wait times, soul-crushing bureaucracies, and sub-standard medical care. (That many of these problems already plague the U.S. system is an inconvenient detail, usually ignored.)

In reality, all other industrialized democracies spend less and get more. They have systems marked by “convenience, quality, and affordability.” None of these countries wants their system to resemble the U.S. system in the slightest.

I don’t imagine the typical American can speak in detail about the advantages of health care in France or the Netherlands, but there nevertheless seems to be a widespread understanding that our way of doing things is badly broken. The right’s pitch — trying to convince the public we have the best care anywhere — hasn’t worked.