While in Israel Mitt Romney praised that country’s high quality, low cost health care system. This resulted in a predictable round of mockery from people pointing out that Israel’s heavily government controlled system is exactly the type of “socialism” Romney claims would destroy freedom and economic success if implemented in America. From Ezra Klein:

“Our gap with Israel [on health spending] is 10 points of GDP,” Romney said. “We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”

Romney’s point about Israel’s success in controlling health care costs is spot on: Its health care system has seen health care costs grow much slower than other industrialized nations.

How it has gotten there, however, may not be to the Republican candidate’s liking: Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system.

While heavy government price control is the “secret” to Israel’s lower health care costs, the simple fact is that it is the same secret used by every other first world country to keep costs down.

Either countries directly own the system and pay fixed salaries to doctors, as in the UK; or they are single payer countries where the government is the only insurer paying a set rate for treatments, as in Canada; or the government creates a regulated all-payer system where all insurance companies pay a low fixed price, as in Japan. While the exact mechanisms vary from country to country the simple fact is that every other first world country pays less for health care because their governments regulate the prices.  The governments use some system to mandate that people can’t be overcharged for what is seen as a basic necessity.

This creates a problem for conservatives like Romney. There is not a single country they can point to as a model to show their mostly market-based health care ideas work. This is primarily because their ideas are awful and unworkable.

So any time a conservative says something positive about another first world country’s health care system, by default they are praising a system they would denounce as freedom destroying socialism if it were ever proposed for the United States. This leaves Republicans with the option of either never acknowledging the quality of other countries’ health care systems or looking like a fool when they do. Most Republicans are tactful enough to take the first option of simply never saying anything, but clearly tact is not Romney’s strong suit.