Yes, the Europeans pay less per person for health care. Is the care as good?
Well, when life-expectancies are adjusted for things that are not amenable to the health care system (like murder rates), Americans have the highest life expectancy in the world, and by far the highest cancer survival rates.
The prices we pay for drugs and medical devices, while high, effectively subsidize the entire world's medical R&D.
Oh yes, and we don't have to wait 6 months to get treated. The wait time issue is often poo-poo'd by elites in the political debate, but it seems to be an important issue for real people:
In a survey, people were asked how they felt about various forms of medical care for a urinary tract infection or for influenza. While people preferred traditional, office-based care, they would opt to see a nurse-practitioner at a retail clinic if they could save at least $31.42. They would wait one day or more for an appointment if they would save at least $82.12.
The researchers concluded that the appointment wait period is the most important determining factors in an individual's choice on where to seek care for minor health problems such as influenza. Primary-care doctors who fear their business will be undercut by the growing popularity of retail health clinics may want to offer more same-day appointments and walk-in hours."
"This study is the first in the United States to quantify the relative importance of and the utility associated with the main attributes of retail clinics. The utility (willingness to pay) associated with receiving same-day care is more than twice the utility associated with receiving care from a physician. Primary care physician practices, especially in competitive markets, are therefore likely to derive greater competitive advantage by addressing patient convenience features (such as same-day scheduling, walk-in hours, and extended hours) than by reducing fees."
Follow the link for more and a link to the original study. Patient convenience is the LAST thing government health care systems design for, but apparently, what actual people most want.
I say over and over, yes, we could reduce the cost of medical care (but by increasing the accountability of individuals for paying for their own care, exactly the opposite direction taken by the Obama plan). But a big reason that we pay more is not because we are stupid and incompetent, but because we can because we are wealthier. It is incontrovertible that we are wealthier per capital than the Europeans -- is it surprising that we would choose to spend a large portion of this extra wealth on our health?