Doctors, Life Expectancy, and Health Care Reform

Hugh Hewitt makes an especially desperate attempt to attack health care reform in a post entitled Obamacare Will Lead To A U-Turn On Life-Expectancy: What To Tell The Blue Dogs. In looking at the politics of health care reform he writes, “It is amazing that neither the D.C. GOP or any of the doctors’ groups have yet organized such an effort…” I disagree that the GOP has not been organizing against health care reform, but it is notable that doctors groups are not.

Not only are doctors groups not organizing against health care reform, but physicians have become among the strongest advocates of reform. That is because we see first hand how our health care system is collapsing. We know the problems greater than anyone else, other than perhaps the millions who are victims of the system. In an interconnected world we increasingly see how far we are falling behind other countries. While tertiary care remains tops in the world in the United States, in many other areas we have fallen behind the rest of the industrialized world. Doctors, after devoting years of our lives to medical educations, simply do not want to see our health care continue to slide into a second rate system.

Of course there will always be doctors who oppose health care reform. This is primarily motivated out of fears of lost income, but doctors also tend to be conservative and many really believe the propaganda coming from the right. Hewitt supports the claim in his title by printing a letter from a single anonymous doctor. Finding a doctor to oppose health reform is hardly difficult, but not very informative either.

The letter is based upon information from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists. There are many areas in which our subspecialty care in Oncology remains top in the world. Unfortunately if preventing deaths from cancer is how we measure a health care system, our system fails in cancer as well as in many other areas. While we must preserve our quality of care in cancer treatment under health care reform–and there is no reason why we cannot–we must also do something about the millions of Americans who cannot afford routine cancer screening. Treatment of cancer is not only about high tech treatment provided by Oncology. We must also consider routine pap smears, mammograms, and colon screening.

Hewitt tries to scare readers by claiming that our life expectancy will decrease if we reform our health care system. One would think that our life expectancy was something to brag about. Life expectancy is not the only measure of a health care system as there are many other factors involved such as demographics, but this is the measure which Hewitt decided to make his argument upon. I’ll post the rankings of the top fifty countries under the fold. The United States falls at number 45, following Jordan, Puerto Rico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bermuda, and Saint Helena. Canada and Great Britain are often used as scare stories by the right, even though neither system is popular with advocates of health care reform. Despite all their problems, Canada falls at seventh and even the United Kingdom leads the United States at 37. If Hewitt wants to make life expectancy the primary consideration for supporting health care reform, we better look at how other countries are doing better than we are.

Rank Country Life expectancy at birth (years)
1 Andorra 83.53
2 Macau 82.35
3 Japan 82.07
4 Singapore 81.89
5 San Marino 81.88
6 Hong Kong 81.77
7 Canada 81.16
8 France 80.87
9 Sweden 80.74
10 Switzerland 80.74
11 Australia 80.73
12 Guernsey 80.65
13 Israel 80.61
14 Iceland 80.55
15 Anguilla 80.53
16 Cayman Islands 80.32
17 New Zealand 80.24
18 Italy 80.07
19 Gibraltar 80.06
20 Monaco 79.96
21 Liechtenstein 79.95
22 Spain 79.92
23 Norway 79.81
24 Jersey 79.65
25 Greece 79.52
26 Austria 79.36
27 Virgin Islands 79.34
28 Malta 79.3
29 Faroe Islands 79.29
30 Netherlands 79.25
31 Luxembourg 79.18
32 Montserrat 79.15
33 Germany 79.1
34 Belgium 79.07
35 Guam 78.93
36 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 78.91
37 United Kingdom 78.85
38 Finland 78.82
39 Man, Isle of 78.8
40 Jordan 78.71
41 Puerto Rico 78.58
42 Bosnia and Herzegovina 78.33
43 Bermuda 78.3
44 Saint Helena 78.27
45 United States 78.14
46 Denmark 78.13
47 Ireland 78.07
48 Portugal 78.04
49 Albania 77.78
50 Taiwan 77.76

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  1. 1
    Lloyd Y. Asato says:

    Doctors, Life Expectancy, and Health Care Reform – Liberal Values …

  2. 2
    Lloyd Y. Asato says:

    Doctors, Life Expectancy, and Health Care Reform – Liberal Values …

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Interesting. I find it terribly amusing that US overseas territories are doing so much better than the US itself. Though many of the people on Guam benefit from ‘socialized medicine’ in the form of military medical benefits.

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