Monday, February 23, 2009

Atlas on American Medical Care

The February 18, 2009 Washington Times published the following OpEd by Dr. Scott Atlas. Atlas does some much needed "mythbusting" of the alleged problems with American health care. Here are a few excerpts:
Pardon The Interruption...

As politicians, economists, popular media and an ever increasing list of others convincingly proclaim cures for the ills of American health care, we Americans are subjected to a stream of opinion deriding as utterly miserable our health-care system compared to the rest of the developed world.

...In this interlude between health czar nominees, and before we legislate government as the solution and final arbiter of medical care, it may be a good time to consider a few unheralded facts about America's health-care system.
Dr. Atlas then cites (with references) the following facts:
(1) Americans have better survival rates from both common and rare cancers than Europeans

(2) Americans have significantly better survival rates from cancer than Canadians

(3) Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than Canadians

(4) Americans have better access to preventive screening for major cancers than Canadians

(5) A marker for inequality of access and quality of health systems, the "health-income gradient" (i.e., that higher incomes achieve better health and lower incomes mean worse health) for adults 16 to 64 years old reveals a more severe disparity in Canada than in the United States

(6) In the United Kingdom and Canada, patients wait far longer than Americans (about twice as long, sometimes even more than a year) to see a specialist, have elective surgery like hip replacements or cataracts, or get radiation treatment for cancer

(7) Sixty percent of Western Europeans say their health systems need "urgent" reform

(8) More than 70 percent of Germans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and U.K. adults (all countries in the survey except the Netherlands, with "only" 58 percent) say their health systems needs either "fundamental change" or "complete rebuilding"

(9) Although much maligned by economists and targeted by policymakers, an overwhelming majority of America's leading physicians themselves recently listed the computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as the most important medical innovations in improving patient care in the previous decade

(10) By any measure, the vast majority of all the innovation in health care in the world comes out of the U.S. health-care system
Read the whole thing here.

Surveys have shown that most Americans are satisified with the quality of their own health care. But because of the constant media drumbeat about the health care "crisis", too many are led to believe that everyone else is having a hard time and thus we need massive "reform" in the form of government-run "universal" care.

Articles like Dr. Atlas' will go a long ways towards countering these errors.

BTW, Dr. Atlas is both a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute with a focus on health care policy and also one of the top academic neuroradiologists in the country as a full professor of radiology at Stanford Medical Center. I used his textbook during my residency training as did many of my practice partners.