Follow the Money

It’s in vogue for defenders of the status quo in health care to downplay WHO statistics that show our infant mortality, longevity and disease morbidity statistics are mediocre. The arguments blame the diversity of our population–we have groups with higher rates of certain diseases and hence higher morbidity and mortality. 

David Hogberg (of the The National Center for Public Policy Research) for example, is quoted :
“……..we are ranked 16th on total deaths (that’s pretty close to 15th, so let’s assume that the press release got it basically right). We rank just above last on diabetes.”

“The problem, though, is that the statistic is “age standardized death rate per 100,000.” In other words, the death rate is adjusted only for age of the population, not for any other factor. That matters because the U.S. has a much higher population of people of African descent than those other nations, a population that is at much higher risk (see here and here) of diabetes and heart disease than the white population. Were the different racial makeup of these nations accounted for, the numbers would probably look much different.”

It certainly possible that the WHO statistics don’t take all population factors into account. But while we have racial diversity and extremes of wealth and poverty in our population other countries have similar problems and other types of diversity. At one time Finland has the highest rate of Coronary Artery Disease but their health care system effectively intervened and the situation is much improved. Similarly, Japan and China have high rates of GI cancers.

What cannot be denied is that we spend 50-100% more on health care expressed either as % of GDP or in terms of per capita spending than any other industrialized country. In return for this investment we get a non-system of care which does not provide for 47 plus million citizens (the uninsured) and provides mediocre results.

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