Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

09 September 2009

Kravis: Life Expectancy Humbug

The socialists claim over and over that the American health care system offers less quality than the European socialist systems do because:
  • American life expectancy is lower than that of the Western Europeans and Canadians, despite our spending twice as much money on health care.
  • Infant mortality rates in the U.S. are higher than in most other developed countries.
I have long been sure that these were specious arguments, given that I knew that American survivability rates for many illnesses were higher than those in those developed countries with longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality. I have long thought I should look into this more.

I am very grateful that Marie-Josee Kravis, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has looked into this and thought it through. She wrote a great Ideas & Opinions piece in the 21 September 2009 issue of Forbes called Life Expectancy Humbug - We're getting a lot of sophistry connecting health care to life spans. To boil it down:
  • If you reach 65, Americans have a longer life expectancy than Britons and Germans.
  • Life expectancy depends upon diet and lifestyle as well as health care.
  • American road fatalities are among the highest in the developed world. We drive more among other things.
  • Our homicide rate is 10 times that of the U.K.
  • 32.2% of Americans are obese, while in Japan it is 3%, France 9.5%, Germany 13.6%, Canada 18%, Australia 21.7%, according to the OECD. Obesity accounts for 10% of health costs in the U.S., but only from 2 to 3.5% in Canada. Obese Americans spend 36% more for health care and 77% more for medications than people of normal weight. Diabetes is 20 times more likely for them, heart disease 2.5 times more likely, and cancer, hypertension, and asthma are twice as likely.
Kravis asks if the Democrat health insurance changes will do anything to decrease road fatalities, homicides, over-eating, too little exercise, smoking, and dangerous use of drugs and alcohol? She says no. In fact, she worries that if these are considered pre-existing health issues and insurance companies have to provide insurance at costs subsidized by the healthy insurance purchasers, then those with bad lifestyle habits are simply encouraged to indulge those bad habits further.

She says that the quality of the health care available should be judged based upon the survival rate outcomes for illnesses, rather than life expectancy. She notes:
  • U.S. mortality rates for all cancers are 166.3 per 100,000, while the OECD countries average 171, Canada is 173.2, France is 170.2, and U.K. is 175.6.
  • Lancet Oncology found that Americans have lower mortality rates for 13 of the 16 most common forms of cancer.
She points out that infant mortality rates are a function of the mother's choices with respect to her age upon giving birth, her marital status, and her drug use and drinking habits. The mortality rate for teen pregnancies is higher than for older women and pregnant women in the U.S. are more likely to live alone than in other countries. These contributors to infant mortality will not go away with changes in health insurance.

I looked up a few other statistics of interest:
  • The U.S. heart disease death rate is 106.5 per 100,000, with the U.K. at 122, Australia at 110.9, Sweden at 110.1, Germany 106.1, Canada 94.9, Netherlands at 75.1, France 39.8, and Japan at 30. The low French and Japanese death rates make it clear that these rates are not simply related to the quality of the health care system.
  • The percentage of road deaths and firearms deaths both are maximal in the 15 to 24 year old age group in the U.S., which explains why these causes of death decrease American life expectancies so much.
  • Life expectancy is also a function of dangerous careers. A nation with more fishermen, lumberjacks, and pilots and flight engineers, will tend to have a shorter life expectancy.
  • Life expectancy will be shortened in a nation with a larger transportation industry, construction industry, and more warehousing, agriculture, and hunting.
Socialists will use any false argument to support more socialist programs, as long as it might seem plausible to most of the people who will not look into the argument more closely.

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