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Friday, September 11, 2009


In his September 9th speech before Congress, President Obama’s asserted that our extra money spent in the United States does not buy us better healthcare.

But, Mr. President, – we ARE getting more for our money!

What about wait times?
According to the Commonwealth Fund, there are alarming percentages of people who have to wait more than four months for non-emergency surgery. In the U.S., 5% wait more than 4 months. In Australia, Australia 23% wait more than 4 months. In New Zealand, 26% wait, in Canada 27% wait and in Britain, over one-third – 36% wait more than 4 months.

What About Survival Rates for major conditions and access to treatments?
According to the American Cancer Society in a recent 2009 report— the number of cancer deaths have steadily declined in the United States over the past 15 years, saving a possible 650,000 lives. The cancer death rate (the #2 cause of death) fell by 19.2 percent for men and 11.4 percent for women between 1990 and 2005.

An article published in 2007 in the British medical journal The Lancet strongly suggests that the United States is also outperforming the world when it comes to surviving diseases such as AIDS, heart disease, cancer, and pneumonia.

Forty-four percent of Americans who could benefit from statins, lipid-lowering medication that reduces cholesterol and protects against heart disease, take the drug. That number seems low until compared with the 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians who could both benefit from the drug and receive it.[i] Similarly, 60 percent of Americans taking anti-psychotic medication for the treatment of schizophrenia or other mental illnesses are taking the most recent generation of drugs, which have fewer side effects. But just 20 percent of Spanish patients and 10 percent of Germans receive the most recent drugs.[ii]

What about life expectancy?
The 2009 CDC report (relying on the latest data from 2006) says Americans are living longer than ever now, and longer every year. Americans average 77.9 years, up from 68 years in the 1950’s.

Although there is the common perception that life expectancy in the U.S. is lower than most industrialized nations, a study by Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider for the American Enterprise Institute found that exogenous factors to be so distorting that if you correct for homicides and accidents, the United States rises to the top of the list for life expectancy.[iii]

What about medical advancements?
In fact, Americans played a key role in 80 percent of the most important medical advances of the past 30 years.[iv]

[i] Oliver Schoffski, “Diffusion of Medicines in Europe,” paper prepared for the European Federation
of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations,” 2002, cited in Daniel Kessler, “The Effects of Pharmaceutical Price Controls on the Cost and Quality of Medical Care: A Review of the Empirical
Literature,” submitted to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider, The Business of Health: The Role of Competition, Markets,
and Regulation (Washington: American Enterprise Institute Press, 2006).

[iv] Economic Report of the President (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2004), p. 192.

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