Thursday, January 20, 2011

Health-care policy: 10 wishes

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to dismantle the health-care bill, whether by directly repealing it (which they can't do without the approval of the Democratically controlled Senate) or by chiseling away at its funding. They think they can improve on it. Fine. It's a flawed bill. Let the improvements begin.

If we're going to start from scratch, here are my 10 wishes for health-care policy. I want a system that
  • provides health care for every citizen and legal resident in the country
  • raises the number of physicians per capita
  • raises the number of hospital beds per capita
  • allows patients to choose their own doctors
  • lowers per capita spending on health care
  • lowers the health-care percentage of the GDP
  • raises life expectancy at birth
  • lowers adult mortality
  • lowers maternal mortality
  • lowers infant mortality
In other words, I want health care that is universal and widely available, allows free choice, saves money for the government as well as for individuals, and - of course - improves our health.

Are you waiting for pigs to fly? If so, check the skies above the following countries. Every country on this list has a health-care system that surpasses ours in all ten areas:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Three other countries - Canada, the U.K., and Japan - surpass us in nine of the ten categories, even though they have fewer doctors per capita than we do.

What do they know that we don't know? Perhaps we should ask them. How about we send our members of Congress on an extended Western European fact-finding tour?

If you enjoy looking up data on health-care systems, you can amuse yourself for hours at the World Health Organization's detailed database search.


JohnM said...

Every one of the countries listed in the chart surpass the U.S. in life expectancy at birth and infant mortality rates? Really? I think you'd better look up some more statistics on the countries listed there.

JohnM said...

Or maybe you meant the list along side the chart. If so, I'll buy that.

LaVonne Neff said...

Yes, I meant the list. Sorry for the confusion. But your question made me wonder where we would stand on the OECD 30-nation list, which goes beyond Western Europe, so I checked.

In infant mortality, 26 of the 30 nations on the chart have lower (i.e., better) scores than the U.S. We are tied in 27th place with Slovakia with 7 deaths per 1000 live births. Way behind us is Turkey, with 24 deaths, and Mexico, with 29. First place: Iceland with 2; 9 of the countries have 3 per 1000.

U.S. life expectancy is slightly better - we're in 24th place at age 78 (both sexes). Behind us are the Czech Republic (77), Poland (75), Mexico and Slovakia (74), and Hungary and Turkey (73). First place: Japan, 83; Switzerland and Australia in second place with 82.