I’ve blogged this in brief before, but I keep thinking about this:
Another point worth making is that people die for other reasons than health. For example, people die because of car accidents and violent crime. A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.
And here’s the chart*:
I’m from Canada and one (of the many) complexes Canadians have over the US is that the US healthcare system is evil and exploitative.
Try this Mankiw article on one favorite whipping post, the millions of uninsured:
To start with, the 47 million includes about 10 million residents who are not American citizens. Many are illegal immigrants. Even if we had national health insurance, they would probably not be covered.
The number also fails to take full account of Medicaid, the government’s health program for the poor. For instance, it counts millions of the poor who are eligible for Medicaid but have not yet applied. These individuals, who are healthier, on average, than those who are enrolled, could always apply if they ever needed significant medical care. They are uninsured in name only.
The 47 million also includes many who could buy insurance but haven’t. The Census Bureau reports that 18 million of the uninsured have annual household income of more than $50,000, which puts them in the top half of the income distribution. About a quarter of the uninsured have been offered employer-provided insurance but declined coverage.
Of course, millions of Americans have trouble getting health insurance. But they number far less than 47 million, and they make up only a few percent of the population of 300 million.
*And here’s a footnote on the chart, which I don’t totally understand:
A number of mathematically astute readers have asked why some countries have increased average life expectancies once you take out fatal injuries. I asked Robert Ohsfeldt about this, who responded that the adjustment factor was based on fatal injury rates relative to the average. Hence, the adjusted numbers shouldn’t be seen as hard numerical estimates of life expectancy, but rather as a way of understanding the true relative ranking of the various countries on life expectancy excluding fatal injuries.