Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rare and Insightful Analysis on Health Care in the United States

A must read for out-of-the-box thinking and analysis on the United Stated health care system is the Columbia Management's report to investors 'Squirrel Chatter II' article from the June 30, 2013 Semi-Annual Report (page 8):
Health Care in the United States

Critics of the U.S. health care system note that the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the United States thirtieth in the world in life expectancy despite the fact that the United States spends more money per capita on health care than any other country. They argue that health care in the United States is inferior to health care in many other developed countries.

Scott W. Atlas’s book, In Excellent Health, Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care, analyzes the consequences of poor lifestyle choices made by many Americans and how the U.S. health care system operates compared to health care systems elsewhere. His book cites numerous studies indicating the U.S. health care system does a great job addressing the health concerns of Americans and is likely the best system in the world.

Life Expectancy

The United States is much more violent and accidentprone than other developed countries. Homicide rates in the United States are ten times that of the United Kingdom and five times that of Canada. Death rates from transportation accidents in the United States are 250% that of the United Kingdom and 160% that of Canada. Murder and accidents account for the majority of deaths among young adults in the United States, and deaths at young ages substantially impact life expectancies.

Robert Ohsfeldt’s and John Schneider’s book, The Business of Health, attempts to quantify the impact of fatal injuries on life expectancy. Using linear regression, they calculate that after standardizing for fatal injuries alone, the United States would edge out Switzerland by 0.3 years and have the highest life expectancy of any country in the world.

Other studies indicate that violence and accidents account for much, but not all, of the life expectancy shortfall in the United States. A National Academy of Sciences panel addressing cross-national health differences issued a paper that indicated 57% of the life expectancy gap for males under age 50 and 38% for females under 50 is explained by higher violence and accidents in the United States...

...Atlas states that the, “… only real crisis in America’s health care today is the unsustainable and increasing burden of health care costs…” and recommends free market reforms. Health care costs are not the topic of this essay, but world-class health care clearly is expensive, and costs in the United States are exacerbated by detrimental lifestyle choices. I also believe that poor government policies result in few incentives for cost restraint...


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