Health care reform advocates love to quote the World Health Organization report that claims the U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care. That study is as Carl Bialik, the Wall Street Journal’s numbers guy, explains in today’s edition is nearly a decade old and relies on statistics that are even older or incomplete:
During the health-care debate, one damning statistic keeps popping up in newspaper columns and letters, on cable television and in politicians’ statements: The U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care.
The trouble is, the ranking is dated and flawed, and has contributed to misconceptions about the quality of the U.S. medical system.
Among all the numbers bandied about in the health-care debate, this ranking stands out as particularly misleading. It is based on a report released nearly a decade ago by the World Health Organization and relies on statistics that are even older and incomplete.
Few people who cite the ranking are aware that some public-health officials were skeptical of the report from the outset. The ranking was faulted because it judges health-care systems for problems — cultural, behavioral, economic — that aren’t controlled by health care.
“It’s a very notorious ranking,” says Mark Pearson, head of health for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the 30-member, Paris-based organization of the world’s largest economies. “Health analysts don’t like to talk about it in polite company. It’s one of those things that we wish would go away.”
More recent efforts to rank national health systems have been inconclusive. On measures such as child mortality and life expectancy, the U.S. has slipped since the 2000 rankings. But some researchers say that factors beyond the control of the health-care system are to blame, such as dietary habits. Studies that have attempted to exclude these factors from the equation don’t agree on whether the U.S. system looks better or worse.
When you look at other statistics like the mortality rates for common cancers Americans have much better survival rates than Europeans or Canadians. A fact Scott Atlas highlights in a report for the National Center for Policy Analysis titled “10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care“.
My father battled cancer for ten years, in those ten years he was able to walk my sister down the isle and watch his grandchildren grow… Given the type of cancer he had and the mortality rates in other countries it’s doubtful he would have been here to do either elsewhere. Our health care system isn’t perfect but it’s far better than health care reform advocates would have us believe.
- Adding Insult to Injury: The Baucus Health Plan Imposes New Taxes on the Sick – Heritage Foundation