Per Capita Spending and Life Expectancy Statistics
by reader Sammy
“Are Per Capita Spending and Life Expectancy Statistics an accurate measure of US Health Care Efficiency?”
Proponents of some degree of nationalization of health care generally cite some variation of the following “The US spends more per capita on health care than any other country, and yet has one of the lowest life expectancies of any developed country” as proof of the need for government intervention. But is that statement meaningful?
This University of Iowa study provides some data that casts some serious doubt.
Let’s break the statement into it’s two parts.
1) “The US spends more per capita…
Yes, but the US makes more per capita. They spend more per capita on LOTS of things as GDP increases.
So the question is, does the US spend more than “expected” given higher GDP. The study conclusion: “Not Obvious” as seen by the graph below.
2) “….. and yet has one of the lowest life expectancies of any developed country.”
(Rdan…My impression is in comments)
This is even more interesting. The US has far higher fatalities from homicide and traffic accidents than other countries which impact the life expectancy statistics.
While this might have some implications regarding crime or traffic legislation, it does not on Health Care, unless one were to assert that US trauma care is dramatically inferior.
So the authors controlled for the differing non-health care related deaths to develop a life expectancy table that could more accurately reflect the relationship between health care quality and life expectancy:
The US jumps from 15th on the list with a life expectancy of 75.3 to 1st with a life expectancy of 76.9.
So one of the central and oft-quoted motivations for government control of health care “The US spends more per capita on health care than any other country, and yet has one of the lowest life expectancies of any developed country” is quite misleading.
The point is not that how much the U.S. spends, but how effective that spending is. If the U.S. spent as much as it does on the military, and ended up with a force the size and sophistication of Canada’s, imagine the criticism.
The revised numbers may bump up U.S. life expectancy, but they do nothing to explain nor excuse the fact that the U.S. is 46th (according to the 2009 CIA Factbook) in infant mortality.
This information is fraudulant and misleading, as in any other statistic that is done objectively from a national standpoint, it shows that the japanese have the highest life expectancy, the lowest mortality rate, and a lower cost per capita. On the other side, the US has one of the higher mortality rates, the lowest life expectancy out of all the developed countries, and the highest cost per capita.
Face it, privatized healthcare is inefficient.
“”Surely there must be huge declining returns in health care spending. Increasing spending to 100% GDP isn’t going to make everyone live much more than they do now.”
No. Of course there are diminishing returns, but the point is that we are way past the point where it is rational to strive for marginal gains. Should we spend twice as much to get another 3-months of life? Of course not.
The “nationalizers” are saying that life expectancy is one of many variables that prove that there is no evidence that we are getting our money’s worth. Pick any variable (except for some forms of cancer detection), and you will find that spending twice as much isn’t making us better off.
On the other hand, there really are people out there suffering. I mean, get out and travel around, this is an issue that goes beyond numbers and dollars. Despite all the talk of paring down the 43million number as much as possible. There is little doubt that millions are suffering for an average of 6 months gain in average life expectancy? (Or go ahead an pick any other metric, it’s all the same.) Anyway, wouldn’t it be nice if we could raise our life expectancy for a fraction of the cost by actually insuring those who aren’t
Norway is number 3 on the list of adjusted life expectancy. Do you think they have long-lines, horrible outcomes, miserable doctors? Well they don’t, but can you imagine what kind of “marginal gains” they could get by spending twice as much?
It’s pretty clear that the American system is broken. We have great care here, but the market adds very, very little to something that many would argue should be a right. And for all the faults of single-payer, or even nationalization, tt is *inherently* better than anything the market can provide.