What Country Has the Best Health Care?

The debate on health care is confused, I think on purpose, by those who use the term “health care” when they mean “health insurance” or medical funding. So let’s focus just on our medical care and not on how it’s paid for, just for now.

There are several bits of evidence that supports the contention that we have the best health care in the world. First, anecdotally, we don’t see US citizens streaming to other countries for care, except in those rare cases where a drug or therapy is not approved here by the FDA. But, more importantly, let’s look at some of the data.

European cancer survival rates The chart on the left is from a 2007 article in the UK Telegraph titled “UK cancer survival rate lowest in Europe.”

There are a lot of factors that affect these numbers, including demographics, general population health, even population genetics. But the article concludes that the most significant factor for the UK rates, according to experts, is the combination of late diagnosis and long waiting lists.
This, more recent article in The Economist, supports the conclusion that the US survival rates for several types of cancer are the best or near the best in the world.

It could even be argued that the European survival rates are higher than they otherwise would be if it were not for innovations from the US.

This article, from the Cato Institute, explains the economic reasons for the disparity in survival rates.

So much for statistics on one set of diseases. This web site, liberty-page.com lists article after aricle documenting issues with different health care systems around the world through the articles in local newspapers. The list of horror-stories for Canada and the UK is shocking.  The articles from the UK alone number well over 100 for just the last few years. Here are just a few examples:

     
  • Kidney cancer patients denied life-saving drugs by NHS rationing body NICE
    – April 29, 2009 [Daily Mail (UK)]
  • Girl, 3, has heart operation cancelled three times because of bed shortage
    – David Rose, April 23, 2009 [Times Online]
  • Number of children going to hospital to have teeth pulled soars by 66% since 1997
    – Daniel Martin and Cher Thornhill, April 12, 2009 [Daily Mail (UK)]
  • NHS ‘failings’ over elderly falls
    – March 25, 2009 [BBC]
  • Learning disabled ‘failed by NHS’
    – Nick Triggle, March 24, 2009 [BBC]  
  • Cancer survivor confronts the health secretary on 62-day wait
    – Lyndsay Moss, March 21, 2009 [The Scotsman]
  •  

     The article, “10 Surprising Facts about American Health Care,” from the National Center for Policy Analysis, is must-reading if you are interested in which country to visit for the best health care.

    Finally, I could do no better than this documentary by John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 program.

    And be sure to watch the hour report John Stossel did in 2007. This is part 1 of 6:

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