Those who oppose the current health insurance reform proposals often are quoted as saying "America has the best health care system in the world." To many, this claim is highly suspicious, and is rooted in the fact that the word "best" is highly subjective.
by Nick Coons
Not everyone defines "best" the same way. If "best" means "highest quality of care regardless of price", then the claim may be true. Americans have better survival rates than Europeans and Canadians for cancer, are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations, have better access to treatment for chronic diseases, spend less time waiting for care, and have much better access to new technology. On the flip side, people in countries with government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed, and Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians. (2).
Those who support the current health insurance reform proposals, or who support a more socialized system of health care in general, reference the World Health Organization (WHO) report of 2000, which ranks the U.S. 37th overall in health care. However, the rankings in this report are flawed and severely biased.
For instance, one of the key statistics in determining the quality of health care is life-expectancy. However, life-expectancy is a poor criteria for making this determination, as it often has little to do with the quality of a health care system and much more to do with genetics, diet, other life-style choices (3). The U.S. has more inner-city violence than most industrialized countries. But death due to gang violence is not a health care issue.
Additionally, the WHO report rates health care systems based on their "fairness." That is, a system that provides good service to everyone will rank higher than a system that provides good service to some and excellent service to others, simply because it is more evenly distributed. In this way, the WHO report is weighted toward a socialist system out of the gate.
Waiting lists are another major issue in countries with socialized health care. There are 830,000 Canadians waiting for admission to a hospital or to get treatment. Approximately 1.8 million Britons are waiting for admission to NHS hospitals at any given point in time (4), double the number just three years ago (5). Just as horror stories exist in the U.S. for people with major medical conditions and no insurance, so they exist in the "utopia" of universal health care (6).
None of this should be construed as support for the status-quo. We have been offered a false dichotomy, "Take our proposal for government intervention in health care, or keep what you have." Fortunately, there are alternatives.
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