Monday, September 14, 2009

We're Number One

About the best argument I've seen (it's tough to choose - there are a lot out there) against the Democrats' assault on our health care system is provided by Fred Barnes in the current Weekly Standard. Barnes explains how our system is the best in the world.
Here's a sampling.

The United States has 27 MRI machines per million Americans. Canada and Britain have 6 per million. The United States has 34 CT scanners per million. Canada has 12 per million, Britain 8.

A little-known fact: Out-of-pocket expenses by American patients amounted to 12.6 percent of total national health spending ($2.24 trillion) in 2007.
That's one of the lowest percentages of private out-of-pocket spending among the world's advanced countries--lower than Germany, Japan, Canada, and most countries in Europe, including those with government-run health care systems. Why do Americans get more and pay less? Because their insurance policies provide broader coverage than most government plans, says Tom Miller of the American Enterprise Institute.

Private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid cover most of the high cost of treating critical illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. And those are the ones in which the survival rates in the United States are significantly higher than in Europe or other countries. There are clinical data substantiating this. Two major studies (EUROCARE-4 and a study by the National Center for Epidemiology, Health Surveillance, and Promotion, in Rome, both published in the September 2007 issue of Lancet Oncology) were used to compare five-year survival rates for Americans and Europeans diagnosed with cancer.
For all cancers, 66.3 percent of American men and 63.9 percent of women survived. In Europe, 47.3 percent of men and 55.8 percent of women survived five years. Those are statistically important gaps.
And the survival rates were higher in the United States for the most common cancers as well. More than 99 percent of men with prostate cancer had survived in the United States after five years, 77.5 percent in Europe. Those with colon or rectal cancer survived at a 65.5 percent rate here and 56.2 percent in Europe. The rates for breast cancer showed a similar difference, 90.1 percent for Americans, 79 percent for Europeans.
Dr. Atlas cites a different set of results that underscore the same point: Your chances of living longer are better with treatment here. "Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom," he reports (see "Here's a Second Opinion," Hoover Digest online). "Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher."
Canada, whose single-payer health system is admired by many liberals, fared better but still trailed the United States. "Breast cancer mortality in Canada is 9 percent higher than in the United States, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher, and colon cancer among men is about 10 percent higher," according to Dr. Atlas.

In treating heart disease, Americans have far more access to statin drugs that reduce cholesterol. "Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit from statin drugs .  .  . are taking them," Dr. Atlas wrote. "By comparison .  .  . only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians receive them."

"Wildly successful" is the way David Brown of the Washington Post has characterized the transformation of heart treatment. "Today, someone having a heart attack who gets to a hospital in time is likely to get cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, the placement of a medicated stent, therapy with four anticoagulant drugs and, on discharge, a handful of lifetime prescriptions," he wrote. These are innovations over the past half-century.
The results are in. "In the 1960s, the chance of dying in the days immediately after a heart attack was 30 to 40 percent," Brown wrote. "In 1975, it was 27 percent. In 1984, it was 19 percent. In 1994, it was about 10 percent. Today, it's about 6 percent."
These results are matched by the success in dealing with all heart disease. "In 1970, the death rate from coronary heart disease was 448 per 100,000 people," according to Brown. "In 1980, it was 345. In 1990, it was 250. In 2000, it was 187. In 2006, it was 135."
Cold numbers don't capture the breathtaking drama of what's happened. The transformation of heart care "has saved the lives of millions of Americans," Brown wrote. ".  .  . It is safe to say that almost everybody who has a heart attack wants the best treatment available. Nobody wants to turn back the clock." Nor should they, despite higher costs.

Whatever the shortcomings of our system, they can be fixed by reducing government intrusion not by expanding it as the Democrats are attempting to do. The Wall Street Journal last week likened the Dems efforts to the old Marx Brothers' joke - "The soup is terrible - And such small portions".

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