Spending More But Not Living Longer?

In a recent report from the IOM, the US comes in with surprisingly low life expectancy compared to other developed countries.  Take, for instance, this picture from USA Today, showing life expectancy for women:

At the same time, we spend WAY MORE on health care than any of our peers.  No one is even a close second.  Does that mean our spending is not yielding appropriate results?  Those of you who follow my writing (I’m talking to BOTH of you) know that I have serious concerns about health care spending in the US.  But keep in mind, that life expectancy is a TERRIBLE measure of health care quality. Living longer is much more a function of broader social issues than it is a function of health care quality.  Consider this other comparison figure from the IOM report:

Yep.  The US is a dominant leader when it comes to the violent deaths of its population. Cannot blame that on the inefficiencies of for-profit hospitals or the administrative complexity of Medicare.

Living long and living well depends on a broad array of social factors, from neighborhood quality to income inequality.  If we want longer and better lives in the US, I wouldn’t look for the health care system to do the heavy lifting.

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