Ken’s Take: I guess the answer is fewer doctors, more police …
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Excerpted from Chicago Tribune, What’s Scary About Health Care Reform?, August 16, 2009
Pres Obama says constantly that the United States spends more per person on medical care than any other nation, but “the quality of our care is often lower, and we aren’t any healthier. In fact, citizens in some countries that spend substantially less than we do are actually living longer than we do.”
It’s true that the United States spends more on health care than anyone else, and it’s true that we rank below a lot of other advanced countries in life expectancy.
Overall Rank / Country / Life expectancy
3 Japan 82.12
7 Australia 81.63
8 Canada 81.23
9 France 80.98
10 Sweden 80.86
11 Switzerland 80.85
13 Israel 80.73
19 Italy 80.20
23 Spain 80.05
24 Norway 79.95
26 Greece 79.66
27 Austria 79.50
30 Netherlands 79.40
31 Luxembourg 79.33
32 Germany 79.26
33 Belgium 79.22
36 United Kingdom 79.01
37 Finland 78.97
40 Korea, South 78.72
46 Denmark 78.30
47 Ireland 78.24
48 Portugal 78.21
50 United States 78.11
But, the juxtaposition of the two facts, however, doesn’t prove we are wasting our money or doing the wrong things.
It only proves that lots of things affect mortality besides medical treatment.
One big reason our life expectancy lags is that Americans have an unusual tendency to perish in homicides or accidents.
We are 12 times more likely than the Japanese to be murdered and nearly twice as likely to be killed in auto wrecks.
In their 2006 book, “The Business of Health,” economists Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider set out to determine where the U.S. would rank in life span among developed nations if homicides and accidents are factored out. Their answer? If homicides and accidents are factored out, the U.S. is in first place.
That discovery indicates our health care system is doing a poor job of preventing shootouts and drunk driving but a good job of healing the sick.
For example, the U.S. has the highest survival rates for lung, breast, prostate, colon and rectum cancers.