More on the US vs. other developed countries and single payer vs. something else debates ...
Healthy systems have some mechanism for self-correction. If not, they die. Different self-correcting systems may operate differently, their sensitivity and response times may differ, but they have something in common. They know their goals, they sense their environments, they respond like the furnace turning on or off in relation to its thermostat.
So perhaps, the US through numerous private and public fiscal
thermostats, has been partially successful in cooling things off,
restraining cost growth while their counterparts in other countries
have been heating things up, making larger healthcare investments. Part
of it may be demographic as Theora suggests, but it may also be nothing
more complex than a social preference to spend more. Are all these
countries regressing toward a mean?
We've been arguing about mechanisms while assuming that all healthcare systems have precisely the same social goals. While the healthcare goals may be similar from one society to the next, it is also possible that one values medical interventions (and more expense) more than another, one values technology more while another values personal interaction more, and so on. These are perfectly reasonable differences, but they lead to different systems, different patterns of correction and just maybe different spending levels.
Deeper questions emerge when we begin to think about adaptability - not just turning the furnace on, but changing the structure of the system, insulating the house, or adding solar power. Some systems are more adaptable. I suspect that while they are also more volatile, confusing, and annoying for those emerged in them, they are also, over the long term, more robust. We should keep that in mind both in our daily struggles with the healthcare system and when we think about the system we wish for.