Friday, July 31, 2009

Life Expectancy Arguments

Data coming out is convincing me more and more that we do get better quality health care in the US. For example, Tyler Cowen at MR cites a study comparing life expectancy at birth and life expectancy conditional on reaching age 65 for the US and the Netherlands:

At birth, someone living in the Netherlands can expect to live 2.35 years longer than someone born in the US, but at age 65, the difference is reversed, and someone living in the US can expect to live 0.4 years longer than someone living in the Netherlands. This difference can be explained by assuming that semi-socialized health care is better for young and worse for old people, or, at least as likely, different policies are not the main cause of the difference

Sources: CDC national vital statistics 2004, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_09.pdf and RIVM 2007 levensverwachting, www.rivm.nl/vtv/object_document/o2309n18838.html (in Dutch)

So, the question still remains on distribution. Is it better to increase the likelihood that citizens are able to reach the age of 65 or that those who do (either because they are congenitally wealthier or healthier) live even longer? There are a lot of interesting tradeoffs in the debate, and the politicians are not focusing on any of them because the old conflicts over class and culture play better to less affluent voters (remember more than half of all Americans have below-average incomes).


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