People keep telling me how great it would be if we had a nice, organized system of nationalized healthcare here in the US, but I've always been skeptical. I keep hearing horror stories of people dying while waiting for basic operations or even not being able to get simple tests in Canada or Germany. All of this anecdotal evidence has made me leery of the concept. Clearly I'm not alone given the extremely negative reaction to Hillary Clinton's attempt to socialize our healthcare system in the 90s. Yet people keep telling me how great it would be and how so many Americans are uninsured and don't get adequate healthcare.
It turns out that people in Europe are thinking about this issue too, but apparently they're trying to figure out why their nice, efficient socialized medical systems are killing them while our chaotic mess of a system is keeping us alive longer and getting the typical patient enormously better care much faster. I ran into a fascinating article on this subject by James Bartholomew in the current issue of Britains The Spectator. To read the whole article you have to register, but there's no cost and it's well worth the few minutes to sign up.
The genesis of the article is that Bartholomew noticed statistics showing that the death rates for the most common forms of cancer were shockingly higher in Britain than in the United States. For example, women with breast cancer in Britain have a 46% death rate as opposed to 25% in te US. Men with prostate cancer in Britain have a 57% mortality rate while in the US only 19% die and the death rate is declining rapidly because of early detection. It's the same with colon cancer. In Britain there's a 40% survival rate and in the US there's a 60% survival rate. With cancer of the esophagus only 7% survive while in the US 12% survive, although it's still one of the most deadly forms of cancer.
This pattern seems to hold true across the board. For virtually every form of cancer your chance of living is 50-100% better if you live in the US than if you live in Britain. I did some research of my own on the topic to see if Britain just had particularly bad healthcare and discovered that the statistics are similar for the socialized medical systems in the rest of Europe. While there were some variations for individual forms of cancer, the overall pattern in Germany, France and the other major European nations was that the death rate for most cancers is close to double what it is in the United States. Britain actually has some of the best survival rates in Europe for breast cancer. Get breast cancer in other European countries and you might as well just dig a hole and jump in. The same is true for colon cancer where the survival rate in most of Europe is less than 1/7 of the survival rate in the US.