Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reality Basis for the National Review

A few days back we had an inquiry about an article in the National Review by some clown named Deroy Murdock claiming that all those pinko commie national health care programs in Europe are much worse than our capitalist paradise system. My initial response was perhaps too sophisticated for our lay readers: the guy is making it up and he's full of shit. That's technical language for failure to provide appropriate citations and cherry picking of out of context anecdotes.

Anyhow, I didn't say anything further right away because I happened to know that we were about to get the real deal answer. Here it is, free to all, including liars who write for the National Review. (Is there some other kind of National Review writer? I'm just curious.)

The point of this study from the Commonwealth Fund was not really to compare the U.S. health care system performance to other countries, but rather to whatever seemed to be the best benchmarks available. But where those happen to be other countries, the conclusion is inescapable. As I keep repeating until it becomes like a spike driven into the brain, we spend twice as much of our GDP on health care as the median of wealthy countries, yet somehow manage to be the only one that doesn't guarantee coverage to everyone. Do we get what we pay for?

On "mortality amenable to health care" -- and we've had a lot of discussion lately about what that is and isn't, but it's something like half of all mortality -- we are close to the bottom. That's right, Deroy, we aren't the best, we're more like the worst. The top scoring countries have 80 annual deaths per 100,000 population; we have 115. The worst is 130. On healthy life expectancy at age 60, we are at 15.3 years for men, and 17.9 for women, vs. 17.4 and 20.8 for the best performing countries. Most of the benchmarks they use are from the best performing states or insurance plans, rather than other countries, but those two seem pretty powerful, because they are, after all, the bottom line.

Here's another: the countries that do the best have 22% of patients reporting experiencing a medical, medication, or lab test error. In the U.S., it's 34%. Deroy claims that in Canada and other pinko commie countries, people have to wait forever to see a doctor. Hmm. In the top scoring countries, 81% of people who need medical attention get to see a doctor by the next day. In the U.S., it's 47%. (I'm surprised it's that high.) I could go on, but you get the idea. Read the National Review for a good laugh, not for information.