Myth 4: The U.S. has the best health care system in the world.
According to the scientifically rigorous CONCORD study (published in 2008), the U.S. ranks highest among wealthy industrialized countries in survival from breast and prostate cancer—especially among older people and those with health insurance. U.S. citizens also smoke less, visit the doctor less frequently, and do not spend as much time in the hospital (pdf) as their international counterparts. But the U.S. health care system falls woefully short by comparison with most other countries when it comes to a majority of other major indices. The U.S. spends more both per capita and as a proportion of its total economy on health care than the other 33 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) but gets the poorest return on investment of any of the other countries.
A few concrete examples highlight the surprising shortcomings. The public health achievements of the 20th century mean more people live to be at least 65 years of age than ever before. But in 2006 (the last year of complete OECD health data) the U.S. ranked 28th in continued life expectancy for women who had reached their 65th birthdays. The nation was in 24th place for continued life span for men at age 65. The average older woman in Australia (ranked number six for women), for instance, lived until she was 86.5 years old—or one and a half years longer than her U.S. counterpart. The average older man in Israel (ranked number five for men) lived until just after his 83rd birthday—or about 15 months longer than his U.S. counterpart.
Credit: Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Taiwan, wm Jams/Flickr