Um, Yeah, No

Look, I’m not going to say the US healthcare system doesn’t need fixing. But this makes one of the stupidest points I’ve ever read.

Americans spend around one in every six dollars on healthcare. But, in aggregate, they’re not getting much bang for their buck. People in the United States are as likely to die from diseases like lung cancer as citizens in all OECD countries – which, on average, spend less than half as much per capita.

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers out there, with a five-year survival rate of about 15%. Patients typically have less than two years to go when its diagnosed, partially because it’s difficult to detect early. The US does have a better lung cancer survival rate in Europe, but the improvement is small, a few percentage points. But that’s because of the deadliness of the cancer, not an inadequacy of the system. You could have the best healthcare system in the world and the survival rate would still be minimal. Using lung cancer survival rates as proxy for healthcare quality is like using the survival rate for suicide by bazooka.

In the meantime, US heart attack, cancer and stroke survival rates — treatable conditions — lead the world by quite a bit.

Nice try, Foreign Policy. Go back to square one.

Update: Just to show I’m bipartisan in my bashing, the WSJ points out that our huge healthcare system employs a lot of people and generates a lot of income. That’s true; but it’s a Broken Window Fallacy. You could just as well argue that we should stimulate the economy by giving everyone cancer. The worth of the healthcare system is not how much money it spends but how much it improves peoples lives. A more efficient system would create just as much health improvement while freeing up resources to find alternative energy, develop better iPods or create a summer movie that doesn’t suck.

Update: More on healthcare from Paglia.

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