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Monday, March 17, 2008

Fun With Numbers and Health Care

First, a big hat tip to a Glen Whitman commentary in my hometown Chicago Sun Times about this issue... In 2000, the World Health Organization put out its World Health rankings. The U.S. was ranked a meager and distrubing 37th in the world. This report will likely be referenced especially by those looking for a revolutionary change to our health system. The credibility that the WHO likely brings will be used by some to hatchet our current health system.

Yet, an examination of the manner in which these rankings were determined will reveal that this report is biased against any free market system and manipulated so that social style medicine always does better. Let's look at how the rankings were determined.

First, there are two categories that index "health level" and "health responsiveness". These two are pretty self explanatory: one measures the overall health of the population and the other measures the responsiveness of the health care system. These two measures are perfectly appropriate and they make no distinction between socialized and free market systems. That said, these two measures account for only 37.5% of the overall measure.

The third measures "financial fairness". This measures the disparity between households in spending on health care as a percentage of their income. The greater the disparity the worse the score. This measure is blatantly biased toward socialized medicine. The more the government spends the less the disparity. Since the overall tax burden of socialized medicine is disregarded, this is a totally misleading measurement.

The other two measures are no less skewed toward socialized medicine. The last two indexes are: health distribution and responsiveness distribution. These two measures are blatantly biased toward socialized medicine. That's because a socialized nation where everyone gets poor or fair health responsiveness would do better than a country where some get excellent care and others get poor. Here is how Whitman put it...

Suppose that Country A has health responsiveness that is escellent for most citizens but merely "good for some disagdvantaged groups, while Country B has responsiveness that is uniformly "poor" for everyone. Country B would score higher than Country A in responsiveness distribution...

These last three measures account for over 60% of the total score, and yet they aren't necessarily in any way related to the quality of the health care provided. Furthermore, as Whitman points out outside factors like smoking and a propensity for junk food over healthy food, are also not included in the overall measure. Certainly, the overall extra stress level that most Americans feel because of our competitive society is also not included in the measurement.

It is unclear how much this report will be used in the campaign and in framing the debate about the future of our health care system. It is clear however that the biases of this report must be explored before it is used for any credibility.


FreedomFighterXL said...

I couldn't agree more. Use more accurate ways of obtaining those numbers, and THEN I will see if health care needs any radical changes.

louie said...

Interesting post. I used to take stress medications too. Then i followed the tips at this webbie ( , and now i can manage my stress level better. My condition has defintely improved. Might want to give it a shot.