Yesterday, BBC News (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14070090) reported the results of a new joint aging study by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and Imperial College in London. The study shows that the U.S. is lagging farther behind in life expectancy, now 1.5 years behind the U.K. and 3.5 years behind Australia, for men. U.S. women lag Australian women by three years. Overall, the world’s richest country with the most expensive health care ranks 38th in the world for life expectancy.
The authors point to several factors that they feel contribute to this widening gap:
Obesity: Our 33% obesity rate is ten times that of the long-lived Japanese. And yet, many Australians are obese as well.
Smoking: This accounts for 20% of American deaths and is a huge preventable health risk. But Australia has a lot of smokers too (though they have enacted tougher laws on tobacco advertising).
That leaves two other factors: The Health Care System and Big Pharma.
The U.S. has striking disparities in life expectancy from state to state, and most of the loss in longevity is due to excess deaths of infants and younger Americans. This points out the deadly effects of a health care system where millions of people do not have access to preventive care or treatment of illness.
But amazingly, the rich don’t do much better in America with their survival. The researchers blame this on a system that pursues expensive interventions and polypharmacy without improving people’s health and survival.
In fact, countries who provide a more even-handed (i.e. socialized) approach to health care end up giving their wealthy citizens less intervention, and they live longer!
Today’s local paper reports that our Blues want a rate increase of 9 – 19% for their various plans. So much for private health care being more cost effective! We can continue to stick our heads in the sand and protect our broken, privatized system, or we can take steps to seriously address the need for (1) universal health care, and (2) medical care that is driven by outcomes, not dollars.