Universal Medical Care Would Kill More Americans   Leave a comment

Tax reform ended the ACA’s tax penalty to support the individual mandate, thereby freeing many Americans to now negotiate with their insurance companies for more realistic medical insurance premiums. I know lots of people who will insist that means more people will die. I disagree.

More people receiving medical care means fewer preventable deaths. If universal healthcare, such as single-payer, leads to less death, then it is obviously the superior moral choice. Politicians like Bernie Sanders will go a step further and claim that Republican legislation, in fact, kills people by reducing government-sponsored coverage.

I am so far not a supporter of the on-vacation GOP healthcare plan because I don’t think it goes far enough. So when Rick, my cousin who is a world-renown doctor in his field, sent me some ideas for a health care article, I was excited to see that he’s not really for the latest-in-series GOP plan either.

What if there were evidence to suggest that more people would die under a universal medical care scheme than under the current US system? What if, by the left’s standards, the American medical care system is less of a killer than the average European one?

There is no accurate, undebatable estimate for how many people in the US died for lack of medical insurance. Consider the best estimates of how many people die in the US due to a lack of medical care. So, for the sake of argument, we’re going to accept the oft-cited (by the progressives) figure of approximately 45,000 fewer people would die in the US every year if all Americans had decent medical care.

Flip the question.

How many people in other countries die due to deficiencies in the medical care systems? And how many Americans would die if we had treatment outcomes similar to those other countries?

study by the Fraser Institute titled The Effect of Wait Times on Mortality in Canada estimated that “increases in wait times for medically necessary care in Canada between 1993 and 2009 may have resulted in between 25,456 and 63,090 (let’s just say about 44,273) additional deaths among females.” The US has about 9 times as many people, so adjusting for the difference in populations, that middle value inflates to an estimated 400,000 additional deaths among females over a 16-year period. This translates to an estimated 25,000 additional female deaths each year if the American system were to suffer from increased mortality similar to that experienced in Canada due to increases in wait times. Rick did not comment on a system that disproportionately harms women, but I will note that doesn’t sound very progressive.

Image result for image of doctors in hospital corridorLet’s look at interventional outcomes. According to the CDC, stroke is the cause of more than 130,000 deaths annually in the United States. However, the US has significantly lower rates of 30-day stroke-induced mortality than every other OECD country (except Japan and Korea). OECD data suggest that the age- and sex-adjusted mortality rates within Europe would translate to tens of thousands of additional deaths in the US.

Just for example – if America had the 30-day stroke-mortality rate of the UK, we could expect about an additional 38,000 deaths a year. For Canada, that number would be around 43,500. That only accounts for mortality within a month of having a stroke, which in turn accounts for only 10% of stroke-related deaths.

This is further reflected in overall stroke-mortality statistics: for every 1,000 strokes that occur annually in the US, approximately 170 stroke-related deaths occur. The UK has 250 stroke related deaths per 1,000 strokes and Canada has 280 stroke-related deaths per 1,000 strokes. Considering that Americans suffer approximately 795,000 strokes each year, the discrepancy in stroke-related mortality is humongous.

Similarly, cancer-survival rates are considerably higher in the US than in other countries. Check out this data cited by the CDC, which comes from the authoritative CONCORD study on international cancer-survival rates. The US dominates every other country in survival rates for the most deadly forms of cancer.

Recognizing that the US is a much larger country than the UK, if we weight the CDC-quoted survival rates for different forms of cancer in accordance with their contribution to overall cancer mortality, there would be about 72,000 additional deaths annually in the United States if our survival rates were comparable to the UK’s. There would similarly be about 21,000, 23,000, and 31,000 additional deaths per year with Canadian, French, and German survival rates.

Lives are saved by the many types of superior medical outcomes that are often unique to the US. This is not to mention the innumerable lives saved each year around the world due to medical innovations that are made possible through vibrant US markets.

Rick would be the first to admit: our medical system is far from optimal. Among other things, soaring medical care costs need to be controlled, while insuring against medical calamity ought to be much more affordable. Still Sanders and Company’s policy demands display completely ignorant of the massive deficiencies that are characteristic of universal medical care systems. They’ll sing songs all day about the 45,000 lives taken every year by greedy insurance executives and their cronies on Capitol Hill, yet remain completely ignorant of the fact that the European systems they fetishize are less humane by their own standards.

If we’re going to call Paul Ryan a killer for attempting to curtail Medicaid spending, then we logically have to apply that epithet to all politicians who advocate for European systems, because those systems have outcomes that would result in tens of thousands of additional deaths in the US every year.

Posted December 22, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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