One of the cornerstones of the health reform argument is: “We pay a lot more than everyone else, but what do we get for it?” Usually, the answer–if we’re looking at life expectancy at birth as the outcome for comparison–is not much. That’s because, when it comes to life expectancy, the United States tends to rank well below most of the industrialized nations that spend far less than us on health care.
But not so fast. Now, it seems, Betsy McCaughey has taken to citing the work of health economists Bob Ohsfeldt and John Schneider that the U.S. has one of, if not the highest life expectancies in the world — if you start throwing away data on accidents and homicide. You can read more about this in an article from Matthew Dalton.
In the course of my doctoral training, I’ve never been advised to start ignoring data, and have actually been strongly advised against data mining (i.e., running model after statistical model and letting the numbers tell you the “truth.”) So, I don’t put much stock in the numbers McCaughey’s bandying about. Instead, I prefer to present the data in their entirety. So here’s a look at the things that killed us in 2006 according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC:
Now, just imagine how long our life expectancy would be if we chose to calculate it while excluding heart disease, cancer, or “everything else.” Perhaps, if we run enough regression analyses, we’ll be able to live forever!