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Sep 15 / Jonathan

Krugman: A Private Obsession

Paul Krugman is frustrated by the irrational difficulty of reforming health care in the United States.

Our system is desperately in need of reform. Yet it will be very hard to get useful reform, for two reasons: vested interests and ideology.

I’ll have a lot more to say about vested interests and health care in future columns, but let me emphasize one key point: a lot of big companies are essentially in the business of wasting health care resources.

The most striking inefficiency of our health system is our huge medical bureaucracy, which is mainly occupied in trying to get someone else to pay the bills. A good guess is that two million to three million Americans are employed by insurers and health care providers not to deliver health care, but to pass the buck to other people.

Yet any effort to reduce this waste would hurt powerful, well-organized interests, which have already demonstrated their power to block reform. Remember the “Harry and Louise” ads that doomed the Clinton health plan? The actors may have seemed like regular folks, but the ads were paid for by the Health Insurance Association of America, an industry lobbying group that liked the health care system just the way it was.

But vested interests aren’t the only obstacle to fixing our health care system. We also have a big problem with ideology.

You see, America is ruled by conservatives, and they have a private obsession: they believe that more privatization, not less, is always the answer. And their faith persists even when the evidence clearly points to a private sector gone bad.

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