Investor’s Business Daily Spins Health Care

The health care debate must be getting serious. This editorial is from the Investor’s Business Daily (2/12/07).

IBD seems to imply that our health care system really isn’t as bad as it seems. We use different definitions for certain events than elsewhere and that explains the mediocrity of our health care outcomes.

“In addition, other countries have suspiciously low infant mortality rates in the first 24 hours after birth. Eberstadt found that in the U.S., Canada and Australia, more than 33% of infant deaths occurred in the first day of life. In France, just 16% died in the first day, in Luxembourg just 10%, and in Hong Kong only 4% of infant deaths occurred in the first day of life. Eberstadt concludes that these countries are artificially pushing down their infant mortality rates by counting many first-day deaths as stillbirths.”

Comparing U.S. Infant mortality OECD data from 2003 with countries using similar methodology however shows Canada with 5.4/1000 live births, Australia at 4.8/1000, UK at 5.3/1000 and the U.S. at 7/1000. Even amongst our peers we don’t measure up.

Investors Business Daily also stated:

“The claim that the U.S. fares far worse than other countries on life expectancy suffers a similar problem because it fails to take into account the multitude of factors other than health care that affect life expectancy.”

“The simple fact is the U.S. suffers from lots of problems – more drug abuse, more murders, more traffic fatalities – that cut into overall life expectancy. The murder rate, for example, is seven times higher in the U.S. than in Japan.”

Those are hardly cultural factors to be proud of.  But guess what, all countries have a different mix of issues affecting mortality. For what it’s worth the life expectancy at birth in Canada for girls is 82.1, and boys 77.3, Australia for girls is 82.8 and boys 77.8 and U.K 80.7 for girls and 76.2 for boys. While in the U.S. life expectancy at birth for girls is 79.9 and boys 74.5. As noted in the IBD article these are countries with a similar basis for their statistics. (Source OECD 2003) By the way health expenditures as % of GDP in 2006 was 9.9% for Canada, 9.2% for Australia and 7.7% for the United Kingdom versus 15.3% for the U.S. (Source OECD statistics for 2006)

In regard to infant mortality, IBD doesn’t explain why we spend close to 16% of GDP on health care, 50-100% more than many of the comparators and have worse or if you take the critique seriously, no better health results than elsewhere.

In regard to life expectancy, it is inescapable that we have mediocre life expectancy when compared with other industrial countries, especially considering the amount spent.

If the U.S. health care establishment were a private company Investor’s Business Daily would be screaming about it’s inability to compete in the global marketplace and accuse the board and managers of mismanagement, inefficiency and waste–not defending a ridiculously expensive non-system of care.

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