Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Health Care Propaganda

You've heard about the horrible, slipshod, uncaring, and greed-driven US healthcare system and its awful, terrible, horrific impact on the mortality tables here, right? (Quoted by Balko:)

For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings of life expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles.

Countries that surpass the U.S. include Japan and most of Europe, as well as Jordan, Guam and the Cayman Islands.

"Something's wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries,'' said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Yah, well.

Then there's the reality check:

As the article itself notes, the U.S. has set life expectancy records in each of the last five years. And though the article quotes public health officials saying we need to do more to fight cancer and heart disease, deaths from both of those ailments have been in dramatic decline for 15 years. Whatever our ranking in comparison to other countries, the picture here is far from bleak. Deaths from cancer have actually declined overall the last two years, despite increases in population. In fact, overall deaths decreased in 2006, and by the largest margin in sixty years.

... don't know how much I'd trust the data coming from some parts of the world. Cuba, for example. Does anyone really think Cuba's putting out honest numbers about its health care system?

...infant mortality is measured pretty differently in different parts of the world. And in the U.S., we're more likely than most places to count a premature, sickly, or low-weight birth as a life lost if it doesn't survive:

The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths. In Austria and Germany, fetal weight must be at least 500 grams (1 pound) to count as a live birth; in other parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, the fetus must be at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. In Belgium and France, births at less than 26 weeks of pregnancy are registered as lifeless. And some countries don't reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth. Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates.

Nationalized health care? Well in the U.S. the mortality rate for prostate cancer is less than 20 percent. In Canada it's 25 percent. In the UK, it's more than 50 percent. Breast cancer? A 20 percent mortality rate in the U.S., 33 percent in France in Germany, and nearly half in the U.K. I find it difficult to believe that the lack of socialized medicine is what's behind our lagging in life expectancy figures.

And as Esenberg discovered:

In The Business of Health, Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider factor out intentional and unintentional injuries from life-expectancy statistics and find that Americans who don’t die in car crashes or homicides outlive people in any other Western country

It's one thing to opine that the US healthcare system needs a few improvements. It's another thing entirely to present misleading (or inaccurate) stats to support one's thesis.

Next thing you know, some of us will be called "Health Crisis DENIERS."


Headless Blogger said...

I am wlling to bet that those mortality stats do not include undocumented aliens in the denominator, but do include any illegals dying in the U.S. in the numerator.

This will skew the U.S. death ratio another 5 to 10% higher based on 10 to 20 million illegals in the U.S. and the poor level of healthcare they received in Mexico, Peru, etc. before entering the U.S.

Anonymous said...


Does my question fit better on this thread?

What are your feelings of public sector vs private sector unions?

In Oshkosh, our city workers insist of having property taxpayers fund 95% of their healthcare costs, and on top of that, provide them with a 3% wage increase.

Most of us average blue collar workers are lucky to have our employers fund 80% of our healthcare costs. Many of my friends have little or no healthcare coverage, but as a property taxpayer, they have to pay for 95% of the city workers healthcare coverage.