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« Myth 5. Cost control and quality will emerge from comparative effectiveness research. | Main | Myth 7. Universal coverage, enforced through an individual mandate, as in Massachusetts, will achieve universal access and reduce costs. »

Myth 6: Life expectancy is longer in other countries because they have universal tax-funded medical coverage, and the U.S. does not.

The longest-lived people are probably the Japanese. They have good genes, are seldom overweight, and eat lots of fish. They have had a government-funded medical system since 1927—and they also have a robust private medical sector. Japanese, like all people except Canadians and North Koreans, are not restricted to a “single” (government) payer. How do we know they wouldn’t live even longer without their government medicine?

International comparisons are tricky because of ethnic diversity in the U.S. While Japanese men in Japan live longer (mean 78.4 years) than the “average” American man (74.8 years), Asian-American men live still longer (80.9 years). (Bureau of the Census, cited by John Goodman)

If we look at illnesses in which aggressive, timely medical care makes a difference, Americans live longer. For example, American women have a 63% chance of living five years or more with cancer, compared with only 56% for Europeans. For men, the figures are 66% for Americans, and 47% for Europeans, writes Betsy McCaughey.

Some European countries with universal coverage have better life expectancies than the U.S. They also have less gang warfare, less racial diversity, fewer traffic deaths, and a different diet. Americans who don’t die from homicide or car crashes outlive people in every Western country (David Gratzer, IBD 7/26/07).

Problems like gangland wars, drug abuse, and unhealthy lifestyles are not caused by lack of universal tax-funded health coverage, and would not be eliminated by enacting it. The suggestion that U.S. life expectancy would increase with universal coverage is faith-based or hope-based, not evidence-based or logic-based. In fact, such an increase is neither sought nor expected by advocates of radical reform such as Tom Daschle, who urge Americans to accept the infirmities of old age and the inevitability of death.

Universal access to a ticket in a waiting line is not a way to improve life expectancy; quite the contrary.

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