Critical Condition

Get Those Oranges Out of the Apple Cart

Here’s a useful piece of intellectual ammunition on international health-care comparisons, in case you weren’t already aware of it. A study by two University of Pennsylvania researchers, Samuel Preston and Jessica Ho, found that differences in life expectancy between the U.S. and other developed countries are likely due to differences in demographics, not health policies:

We find that, by standards of OECD countries, the US does well in terms of screening for cancer, survival rates from cancer, survival rates after heart attacks and strokes, and medication of individuals with high levels of blood pressure or cholesterol. We consider in greater depth mortality from prostate cancer and breast cancer, diseases for which effective methods of identification and treatment have been developed and where behavioral factors do not play a dominant role. We show that the US has had significantly faster declines in mortality from these two diseases than comparison countries. We conclude that the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.