I’d like to respond to Thomas Kelemen-Beatty’s letter [“Nonsense or No Sense,” Jan. 23], in which he attempted to make the case that “we have the most expensive health-care system in the world, but far from the best.” He was probably using studies by the World Health Organization and Commonwealth Fund—which I find biased—that purport to tie poor U.S. world rankings in infant mortality and life expectancy to the quality of our health-care system. Like countless others that have used these arguments, he no doubt hopes this will help to promote our society’s switching to a government-run, socialized health-care system.
I agree that our medical system has serious problems, but they stem from a lack of modernization in information-sharing and departures from free-market principles, i.e. too much government interference (government mandates cause artificially high medical-insurance rates), just to name two.
Had Mr. Kelemen-Beatty cared to research further, he would have discovered that such comparisons are, in fact, unfair, bogus and useless for the following reasons.
Judging a country’s quality of health care on life expectancy is wrong partly because there are many causes of death that have nothing to do with medical care, such as diet, lifestyle … genetics, degree of ethnic diversity, auto-accident rates and homicide rates.
The United States is also less socialistic (thank God)!… . The WHO study judged countries on how “fairly” health care is distributed, not merely on the quality of care. In addition, cross-national statistical comparisons are meaningless since some nations exclude certain segments of their population while others include those same segments (i.e. different standards).
As far as using infant mortality as a measurement of effectiveness, again the problem lies in inconsistent measurement across nations. The U.S. includes as “living” every newborn that shows any sign of life, regardless of gestational age. Many other countries are not as forgiving. Switzerland counts newborns as living only if they measure at least 30 centimeters. Italy has at least three different definitions in different regions.
In addition, high U.S. infant-mortality rates are greatly affected by the increased incidence of single mothers. Pregnant women living alone are less likely to receive prenatal care … . Readers may [read more about] the information contained in this letter at www. nationalcenter.org.
For all its problems, the United States ranks at the top for quality of care and innovation. Every year, thousands more people travel to the United States to receive medical care than travel to other countries.
Neither life expectancy nor infant mortality rates should be used to measure the effectiveness of any country’s health-care system, much less used to determine what ours will look like in the future.
— Mark Claxton