U.S. Health System Beats Others

David Hogberg has a letter in the Detroit News taking issue with an earlier Detroit News article by Ron French that appeared to be, in my opinion at least, a bit unfair to the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals within the U.S. health care system.

For instance, the article said:

If you’re born in the United States, chances are that you’ll die younger than people born in other industrialized nations. The United States has the lowest life expectancy of 14 nations measured by the World Health Organization. U.S. life expectancy in 2001 was 77.1; Canada, 79.7; Italy, 79.8; Japan, 81.5The infant mortality rate is higher in the United States than in other industrialized nations. In 2003, seven infants died for every 1,000 live births in the United States — the worst rate of 19 countries measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Here’s what David wrote in response, as published:

U.S. Health System Beats Other Nations’ CareThe Sept. 26 article “In U.S., it’s pay more, get less” suggests Americans pay more for their health care than other nations but are no healthier. The article points to the fact that the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates than other nations, but those two measures tell us little about the quality of a health care system.

Research shows that life expectancy is determined by factors such as gross domestic product per capita, genetics, literacy, diet and sanitation. Health care spending and 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 infant measuring under 30 centimeters, while France does not count any infant born before 26 weeks, when compiling its infant mortality rates. The United States does.

Statistics that do accurately measure health care outcomes show that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world.

The Commonwealth Fund compared a few nations, including the U.S., using the ratio of incidence to fatality of diseases such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. The United States came out on top.

A recent study in the journal Circulation found that the five-year mortality rate among patients who had severe heart attacks was higher in Canada than the U.S. because the U.S. does more angioplasty and bypass surgery than Canada.

If we in the United States wish to maintain our superior health care system, then the statistics suggest that the last thing we should do is adopt a system of government-run health insurance.

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