Healthcare Makes for a Dog’s Life
The ever-worth-reading Theodore Dalrymple, himself a doctor, compares international — and inter-species — healthcare programs and comes to some insightful conclusions, including this one:
Across the Channel, there is very little that can be said in favor of a health system which is the most ideologically egalitarian in the western world. It supposedly allots health care independently of the ability to pay, and solely on the basis of clinical need; but not only are differences in the health of the rich and poor in Britain among the greatest in the western world, they are as great as they were in 1948, when health care was de facto nationalized precisely to bring about equalization. There are parts of Glasgow that have almost Russian levels of premature male death. Britain’s hospitals have vastly higher rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (a measurement of the cleanliness of hospitals) than those of any other European country; and survival rates from cancer and cardiovascular disease are the lowest in the western world, and lower even than among the worst-off Americans.
Even here, though, there is a slight paradox. About three quarters of people die of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and therefore seriously inferior rates of survival ought to affect life expectancy overall. And yet Britons do not have a lower life expectancy than all other Europeans; their life expectancy is very slightly higher than that of Americans, and higher than that of Danes, for example, who might be expected to have a very superior health-care system. Certainly, I would much rather be ill in Denmark than in Britain, whatever the life expectancy statistics.
Perhaps this suggests that there is less at stake in the way health-care systems are organized and funded, at least as far as life expectancy is concerned (not an unimportant measure, after all), than is sometimes supposed. Or perhaps it suggests that the relationship of the health-care system to the actual health of people in societies numbering many millions is so complex that it is difficult to identify factors with any degree of certainty.
Mr. Dalrymple also seconds a point that I’ve made several times: that the United States’ current healthcare is disproportionately expensive, compared with the rest of the world, in part because we’re carrying some of the load for those other countries, particularly in continuing innovation. The healthcare “reforms” currently in discussion within the federal government will begin the process of retarding technical development.