The One (Health Care Statistic) to Note


By: Brooks A. Mick

There are dozens of health care statistics thrown around by those who support the various congressional health care bills and by those who oppose them. Life expectancy in America versus the world is one; money spent on health care is another. Infant mortality is frequently mentioned. Surely readers here are familiar with the various arguments concerning how, here in America, we count extremely premature infants as live births and most countries don’t; how we spend bushels of money trying to save–and often succeeding–in saving these premature infants; how US traffic fatalities contribute greatly to the stats; how American lifestyles and abundant food may contribute to poorer statistics; etc., etc., etc. It is clear that overall life expectancy is a tremendously multifactorial statistic.

One statistic is never mentioned, however, and is much less likely to be influenced multifactorially. Indeed, it is virtually certainly influenced by only one factor. That statistic is life expectancy AFTER AGE 65. That is, if one manages to reach age 65, how many years left to live, on the average, will he have?

It might shock those people who denigrate American health care to note that an American at age 65 has a longer life expectancy than Europeans such as Germans, French, etc. Now just think about that!

Does an American, at age 65, suddenly lose 100 pounds, start jogging, begin eating more vegetables and fruits, decrease his intake of saturated fats, and get really, really serious about his health? Does anyone seriously propose that such changes occur?

No, there can be only one reason why an American at age 65 has a better life expectancy than in other countries: HE GETS BETTER HEALTH CARE! That is the only logical reason that makes sense at all. This one statistic cancels out the multitude of other factors that could influence life expectancy at birth. A 65-yr-old has already passed the hurdles of premature infancy, for example. Indeed, if you think about it, that a 65-yr-old American has such a good life expectancy in spite of less exercise, in spite of obesity, in spite of eating more fast foods, in spite of the risk of auto accidents–in spite of all the factors that could adversely affect his health–is a remarkable testimony to the efficiency and effectiveness of health care in the USA.

You have another explanation?

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