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).
Matt jumps in and points out what was invisible to the commenter — after 65, Americans get health care through Medicare.
Americans over the age of 65 participate in a Canadian-style national health insurance scheme known as Medicare. The data, if we want to take it seriously, indicates that the Dutch system is better than private sector medicine but worse than Medicare and tends to support a â€œMedicare for allâ€ approach.
In a recent post I cited an article in Roll Call that said states whose citizens have the least access to health care also have the highest Medicare costs, per person. The authors speculate that the bump in Medicare costs reflects lifetimes of health care neglect.
Put another way, if you want Medicare costs to go down, give people better health care in the first 65 years of their lives.
Hereâ€™s the raw fact, from the National Health Expenditure data: since 1970 Medicare costs per beneficiary have risen at an annual rate of 8.8% â€” but insurance premiums have risen at an annual rate of 9.9%. The rise in Medicare costs is just part of the overall rise in health care spending. And in fact Medicare spending has lagged private spending: if insurance premiums had risen â€œonlyâ€ as much as Medicare spending, theyâ€™d be 1/3 lower than they are.
How do these numbers not show us that Americans are getting substandard medical care? But as Jonathan Alter says, our current system is great! What’s not to like? (Read Alter before commenting.)