Thursday, November 05, 2009

Kristof: U.S. Health Care Sucks & An Apology to Slovenia

It turns out that Slovenians are sick and tired of having their health care system compared to the miserly American system. Today a red faced Nicholas Kristof apologizes to Slovenia.

Kristof's column is a sad and resounding condemnation of the United States for its abject failure to take care of its own people. Countries with far fewer resources do a far superior job of attending to the health needs of children and adults of all ages. And people wonder why America is falling apart, or crumbling from within. An excerpt follows.

The United States ranks 31st in life expectancy (tied with Kuwait and Chile), according to the latest World Health Organization figures. We rank 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the United States is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland.

Canadians live longer than Americans do after kidney transplants and after dialysis, and that may be typical of cross-border differences. One review examined 10 studies of how the American and Canadian systems dealt with various medical issues. The United States did better in two, Canada did better in five and in three they were similar or it was difficult to determine.

Yet another study, cited in a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, looked at how well 19 developed countries succeeded in avoiding “preventable deaths,” such as those where a disease could be cured or forestalled. [The U.S.] . . ranked in last place.

. . . It’s true that Americans have shorter waits to see medical specialists than in most countries, although waits in Germany are shorter than in the United States. But citizens of other countries get longer hospital stays and more medication than Americans do because our insurance companies evict people from hospitals as soon as they can stagger out of bed. .

. . An American child is twice as likely to die in its first year as a Slovenian child.