Death Rates In America – The True Cost Of Healthcare
Throughout the healthcare debate, we have heard proponents of the government run healthcare option declare that America is not getting value for its healthcare
dollars. The measure they continue to use to argue this point is life expectancy for Americans, stating that life expectancy in the US lags all other developed nations. But life expectancy is determined by many factors that are completely unrelated to the healthcare system, and when you focus on these other factors you realize that the government's healthcare reform proposals are certainly off target.
First, how is life expectancy calculated? Very simply, it is the average number of years people live beyond their current age. Americans at age 65 have a life expectancy of 17 years for males and 20 years for females; this is higher than the life expectancy of 65 year olds in the UK and Germany. But many factors contribute to life expectancy; it would be ridiculous to think that the healthcare system alone determines this.
Lifestyles and diet are certainly the biggest contributors to life expectancy, and the healthcare reform measures do nothing to address those issues. In the US, we need to make better lifestyle choices to help ourselves.
Here are some contributing factors that are unrelated to the healthcare system that determine the life expectancy rate in the US:
Obesity. 40% of Americans are obese; the average among all of the developed nations is 14%, with 3% in Japan, 13% in Germany, 18% in Canada and 21% in France. Obese Americans spend 77% more on drugs than those of normal weight people. They are 20 times more likely to develop diabetes and twice as likely to develop cancer and hypertension. The government run healthcare option will not lower obesity rates in the US.
- Death on our roads. America has one of the highest road mortality rates in the developed world. The death rate in the US is nearly 300% higher than in Japan.
- Homicide. The homicide rate in the US is 1000% higher than in the UK.
There are many other contributors to life expectancy that are unrelated to healthcare; alcohol consumption and drug usage also have a very big impact. These are all lifestyle choices that certainly inflate our healthcare costs, but a government health insurance option will not solve these problems.
A true test of the quality of care in the US can be found in the survival rates for illnesses. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development compiles data on mortality rates for all of the world's developed nations. The report found that for all cancers, the average mortality rate for all of its member countries was 171 deaths per 100,000 cases. Canada has a rate of 173, France's rate is 170; the UK's rate is 175; and in the US it is 166. Further studies found that Americans have a much higher rate of survival for 13 out of the 16 most common cancers, indicating that our quality of care and survival rates are among the best in the developed world.
Obviously, simply comparing life expectancy to healthcare cost is not a meaningful measure. Our healthcare problems are social problems, and a government run health insurance option will not fix them. These problems indicate a need for change in our education and public health systems.