Bill Steigerwald

It's hard to find anyone who likes America's health care system, including John Goodman, president and founder of the National Center for Policy Analysis. But you'll never find Goodman saying that health care is better in places like Europe, where socialist governments provide "free" universal health care for everyone.

Goodman -- dubbed "the father of Health Savings Accounts" by The Wall Street Journal -- has written nine books, including "Handbook on State Health Care Reform" and "Patient Power: Solving America's Health Care Crisis."

To find out what he thinks America's health care system should look like -- and why Europe's government health systems are the last things we should copy -- I called Goodman on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at his offices in Dallas:

Q: Many people -- mostly people who think health care should be provided free to everybody by the government -- point to Europe as a model. Should they?

A: The people who praise European health care say that the average country in Europe spends half as much as we do and they have very similar health outcomes. What they don't tell us is that the typical European country is disguising costs, shifting costs, to hide what it really spends. And if we look over the last 40 years at the average spending per person in real terms, the growth rate in the United States is right at the European average.

Q: How does what Europeans get for their money compare with what Americans get for their money?

A: Well, life expectancy looks as good or better in Europe than it does in the United States. But life expectancy is primarily determined by genes and how people live their lives, not by doctors and hospitals. If you look at things that doctors can do something about, like cancer, and you ask, "What is the five-year survival rate for major forms of cancer?," we are the best in the whole world.

Q: Do you have the sense that most Americans know what Canadian or European health care systems really are like?

A: No. Americans don't think about the health care systems of foreign countries. But the health policy community is heavily dominated by people who would like to socialize the entire American health care system. They are constantly pointing to the health care systems of other countries and claiming that those systems work better than ours.

Q: Are they blind to the facts or what?


Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..