Richard Cohen vs. John Boehner

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The liberal columnist assails the Speaker-to-be for asserting that we have “the best health care system in the world.” Boehner’s assertion isn’t one I’m especially interested in defending, but Cohen’s attack is mistaken. Cohen’s top reasons for thinking we have a crummy system are our relatively low life expectancy and our relatively high infant mortality rate.

As conservatives and libertarians have pointed out time and again, the health-care system is not the reason for these statistics. Here’s the way I put it a couple of years ago: “In this country, a premature delivery followed by death would be counted toward the infant-mortality rate; not so in some other countries. And whatever we think of our health-care system, it is not to blame for the fact that America has a lot of car wrecks and homicides. When health economist Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider adjusted for these factors, the U.S. had the highest life expectancy of any developed country. (And they didn’t correct for obesity rates, which would make our advantage look even bigger, just like our waistlines.)”