Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lies, damn lies and statistics

The Wall Street Journal published an Op-ed piece on November 12 titled "The False Promise of 'Medicare for All'" by Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institution, promising death and financial ruin should we adopt this approach. I believe that Atlas cherry picked his facts and reached the wrong conclusion. He starts his piece with the frightening thought that Medicare for all would cost $32 trillion over the next decade, an estimate that The Tax Policy Center had previously published. What he fails to mention is that under our current "non-system," the cost projection is much worse. In 2017, US health care expenditures were $3.5 trillion - about twice as much per capita as in comparable Western democracies. If we assume a (very) conservative inflation factor of 5%, the projected cost over the next decade would be over $46 trillion - thus making Medicare for All a veritable bargain! He claims that nationalized programs have failed to provide high quality care compared to the US system, based on largely anecdotal data. As to quality, it is clearly true that wait times in the US are shorter than in most other countries, but what matters more than wait times is the health outcomes. The average life expectancy in the United States is 78.6, while it is over 80 in at least 29 other countries, including Japan and most of Europe. Maternal death rates in the US are dramatically worse than in other OECD nations. Rates of death per 100,000 live births range from 6.4 in Japan to 9 in Germany, while in the US it is 26.4. Our death rates for infants and children are much higher than are those in other OECD nations. A very revealing study found that when looking at treatment of patients with advanced colon cancer treated in neighboring Washington state and the Canadian province of British Columbia, the cost of care in Canada was half that in the United States and that the Canadian patients lived longer! For more details, see my book Prescription for Bankruptcy.

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