Of the 17 countries measured, the United States placed dead last in life expectancy, even though we lead the planet in the amount we spend on health care (17.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 vs. 11.6 percent each for France and Germany). We get radically less bang for the buck than comparable nations.
Of the 17 nations studied, the United States ranks first in violent deaths, at roughly three times the level of second-ranking Finland and 15 times that of Japan, which ranked last. This list includes violent deaths by all means, not just gunshots, so it’s a pretty fair measure of either different people’s inherent propensity toward violence or the access people have to deadly weapons when they get violent.
But he then points to a seeming anomaly.
But a funny thing happens to Americans’ life expectancy when they age. The U.S. mortality rate is the highest of the 17 nations until Americans hit 50 and the second-highest until they hit 70. Then our mortality ranking precipitously shifts: By the time American seniors hit 80, they have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.
What gives? There are some obvious possible explanations such as that if your young people with a greater propensity to die are gone in larger numbers early in their lives, then those who survive to old age must be either hardier or more fortunate in many ways. But there’s more to it than that.
But the larger part of the answer is that at age 65, Americans enter a health-care system that ceases to be exceptional when compared with the systems in the other 16 nations studied. They leave behind the private provision of medical coverage, forsake the genius of the market and avail themselves of universal medical insurance. For the first time, they are beneficiaries of the same kind of social policy that their counterparts in other lands enjoy. And presto, change-o: Their life expectancy catches up with and eventually surpasses those of the French, Germans, Britons and Canadians.
We need to adopt a universal, single-payer health care system.