Saturday, November 10, 2007

One Possible Transnational Healthcare Metric

My previous post answered various questions about Professor Greg Mankiw's Op-Ed on healthcare, including re-affirming the lack of any agreed-on methodology for ranking national healthcare systems. Cultural differences are one important obstacle to country comparisons--as I've detailed, U.S. life expectancy data is depressed because we have more murders, car crashes, suicides, etc.1 This is unfortunate, but hardly an indictment of healthcare or health insurance in America, contrary to Amicus at Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan (because it's virtually impossible to imagine that a change in healthcare policy could significantly reduce causes of murder, suicide and accidents, as opposed their mortality, already dropping under current policies).

Today, Mankiw's blog links to Professor Mark Perry's post citing a 2006 University of Iowa study that attempted statistically to account for the incidence of fatal injuries in OECD member countries and normalize national life expectancy numbers accordingly. Ironman at Political Calculations charted the results:

source: Ironman via Prof Perry's Carpe Diem blog

As Professor Perry summarizes:
Without accounting for the incidence of fatal injuries, the United States ties for 14th of the 16 OECD nations listed. But once fatal injuries are taken into account, U.S. "natural" life expectancy from birth (76.9 years) ranks first among the richest nations of the world.
In sum, the bad news is that I overlooked one useful transnational healthcare metric. The good news is that the results suggest, as I suspected, that American healthcare is among the best. More proof that our current approach to healthcare and health insurance might profitably be tweaked, but need not be scrapped. Will NY Times columnist Paul Krugman ever honestly evaluate the evidence?
1 America also is home to far more immigrants -- often uninsured -- as compared with other, more homogeneous, Western societies. This, too, may inflate the measure of those without insurance or speedy access to treatment without necessarily revealing flaws in U.S. healthcare policy.

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