Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality No Way to Compare Health Systems

The Christian Science Monitor printed a letter from Eric Mart of Concord on August 3. It said, in part:

On Health Care Issue, Bass is Simply Wrong…I took to the internet and checked just where the United States stands in infant mortality and life expectancy in relation to the rest of the world.

I was shocked to find that the United States is rated 183rd of 225 countries and that we’re surpassed by countries such as Portugal, Canada and South Korea, all of which have some form of socialized health care and lower GNPs.

The United States is rated 48th in life expectancy and is surpassed by countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece, which have socialized medicine…

David Hogberg disagreed, and the Monitor published his letter today:

Poor Choice of StatisticsRe “On Health Care Issue, Bass is Simply Wrong” (Monitor letter, Aug. 3):

Unfortunately, Eric Mart is using statistics — life expectancy and infant mortality — that tell us next to nothing about the effectiveness of a health care system. Research shows that life expectancy is determined by factors such as gross domestic product per capita, literacy, diet and sanitation. Factors such as health care spending or doctors per capita have no effect.

Infant mortality is measured too inconsistently across nations to be a meaningful measure. For instance, Switzerland does not count any baby born under 30 centimeters, thereby eliminating many of its highest-risk infants from its infant mortality rate.

In areas where a health care system can make a difference and that are measured with some consistency, like cancer treatment and five-year survival rates after a heart attack, the United States performs at or near the top.

What meaningful comparisons of health care systems tell us is that socialized medicine is inferior. What is needed to improve health care in this country is more market-based reforms, such as removing meddlesome regulations and moving toward products like health savings accounts.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.