‘Life Expectancy’ A Bad Measure of Successful Healthcare

Forbes Magazine will feature a report by the Hudson Institute’s Marie-Josee Kravis who points out the fallacy of tying a nation’s average life expectancy to its level of effective healthcare. In her estimation, life expectancy does not translate necessarily to good or bad healthcare and the left’s penchant for using it as a metric to denigrate America’s healthcare system is illegitimate.

Kravis writes that, “life expectancy reflects not only health care but also diet and lifestyle. A raw match of life expectancy against health care spending is naive.” She then goes on to discuss some of those mitigating factors. Things such as road fatalities, obesity, and drinking and smoking habits are different from country to country and thee factor materially affect life expectancy/ None of them are a result of the healthcare system, either. They are habits of the people, not failures of the healthcare system.

Karvis then offers one stat that might prove a model to get a better measure of healthcare: cancer survival rates. It seems that ours is better than other western nations.

Preliminary findings show U.S. mortality rates for all cancers to be 166.3 per 100,000, compared with an average of 171 in OECD countries and a rate of 173.2 in Canada, 170.2 in France and 175.6 in the U.K. Last year the journal Lancet Oncology found that Americans have a higher survival rate for 13 of the 16 most common forms of cancer.

Kravis makes some good points in her piece and her warning that blind use of life expectancy numbers does not make for informed proof for or against the healthcare system.

(Cross posted at HealthcareHorseRace.com.)

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