Benefit of universal health care - longer life

Apr 2010
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#1
The biggest benefit to universal care is the ability to provide health care at the lowest cost - before the little problems become big and expensive. It also extends lifespans, and results in an overall healthier population.

(CBC News) Canadians tend to lead longer, healthier lives than Americans on average, say researchers who point to lack of universal health care in the U.S. as one reason.

The study in Thursday's online issue in BioMed Central's journal Population Health Metrics was based on data from the 2002-03 Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health, which offered comparable data on the health of the population in both countries.
'I think that Canadians can look at these results and get some affirmation that the investments that they have made in reducing inequality and in having a health-care system with universality have paid off.' — David Feeny
David Feeny, a dual Canadian/U.S. citizen and investigator at the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Ore., and his U.S. colleagues calculated health-adjusted life expectancy, which takes into account not only mortality risk but also the health-related quality of life, such as being free of disability.


The study's authors found a 19-year-old in Canada could expect to enjoy 2.7 more years of perfect health than a 19-year-old in the U.S. In this case, someone in perfect health would have a top score of 1.00 on the Health Utilities Index Mark 3.


The index lowers an individual's score depending on their level of disability in eight areas: vision, hearing, speech, ambulation dexterity or ability to move, emotion, cognition, pain and discomfort. The lowest score is 0.00 for death.


About two-thirds of the gap was because mortality rates in Canada are lower and the remaining one-third was thanks to lower rates of morbidity or disease in Canada —differences Feeny called "quite substantial" with policy implications on both sides of the border.


"I think that Canadians can look at these results and get some affirmation that the investments that they have made in reducing inequality and in having a health-care system with universality have paid off," said Feeny, who worked for more than 30 years in Canada at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and the University of Alberta in Edmonton.


"I think it underscores the need for additional vigilance on emerging issues such as child poverty in Canada that will eventually affect population health," he added.
The survey itself did not say why Canadians are healthier, but the study's authors pointed to two major potential explanations:

  • Differences in access to care between the "prenatal to grave" health service offered by provinces and territories compared with the non-universal American access that is typically through employee coverage or Medicaid or Medicare for those with low incomes and seniors.
  • The higher degree of social inequity that is more pronounced in the U.S., particularly among seniors.
What the U.S. team found is consistent with what most other studies have also concluded about the cost effectiveness and better outcomes in Canada, said Raisa Deber, a professor in the department of health policy, management and evaluation at the University of Toronto.
"I would suspect that a chunk of it is the ability to pick up chronic conditions while they are still treatable," Deber said.
Link to rest of article
 
Dec 2007
552
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#2
The biggest benefit to universal care is the ability to provide health care at the lowest cost - before the little problems become big and expensive. It also extends lifespans, and results in an overall healthier population.


Link to rest of article
But, but, but, Universal health CAN'T be good for people - it has to be something different about Canada and the US - I know! It is the Hockey!! Canadians live longer because they watch hockey!
 
Mar 2010
1,160
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#4
I do believe universal healthcare is a good idea, but this appears to be just a comparison of Canadian and American health outcomes.
We need to be both wider in scope and more critical of variables to work this into a real argument.

For instance, what if Canada also has lower levels of social stratification than the US (which it probably does)? Relative poverty has been shown to be the primary factor in variance across population in health outcomes... regardless of whether universal healthcare exists or not. The stress created by poverty causes more disease even if poor people have access to better health care. This said, lower life expectancies for poor people in the US should drag down our average due to the extent of our stratification.

I'm sure overall universal healthcare could increase life expectancy, but this article doesn't isolate the variable.

ADDENDUM: Looking back, I notice the guy quoted mentions reducing inequality as a separate variable... so it's really only the title that's off.
 
K

katiegrrl0

#5
Universal Health Care works all over the world. It works well in Canada. The life expectancy in most of these nations is longer. Perhaps the US would do well to not let the right partake in NHC. It may have an added benefit.
 
Mar 2010
1,160
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#6
Universal Health Care works all over the world. It works well in Canada.
But do we actually know whether universal healthcare causes that higher life expectancy? It could also be cultural behavior (eating and exercise habits, attitudes toward seeing doctors), higher levels of equality, health laws, food standards, safety requirements, reduced stress through rules at work, etc.
(granted, conservatives are against just about everything I mentioned)

I support UHC on the basis that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights... and health care is directly connected to that. But this is an argument for equal access, not better overall outcomes.
Some studies suggest that the poor are just as disproportionately unhealthy in countries with UHC as countries without. According to those studies, increased overall equality would be more important for outcomes (something I also support for reasons of equity and human rights). Canada and most European countries would beat the US in those attributes as well, and that may explain more of the differentiation in life expectancy.
 
Jul 2007
276
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#7
It stands to reason that "universal health care" in some form would likely raise life expectancy. People aren't going to take their blood pressure or diabetes meds, or see the doctor about them, or get the lab tests needed to monitor their conditions, if they don't have the money or insurance. Treating health problems before they become even bigger health problems is cost effective, even if the cost of preventitive treatment seems high.
 
K

katiegrrl0

#8
But do we actually know whether universal healthcare causes that higher life expectancy? It could also be cultural behavior (eating and exercise habits, attitudes toward seeing doctors), higher levels of equality, health laws, food standards, safety requirements, reduced stress through rules at work, etc.
(granted, conservatives are against just about everything I mentioned)

I support UHC on the basis that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights... and health care is directly connected to that. But this is an argument for equal access, not better overall outcomes.
Some studies suggest that the poor are just as disproportionately unhealthy in countries with UHC as countries without. According to those studies, increased overall equality would be more important for outcomes (something I also support for reasons of equity and human rights). Canada and most European countries would beat the US in those attributes as well, and that may explain more of the differentiation in life expectancy.
yes we do.

[SIZE=+1]Rank Member State Population Males Females

1 Japan 74.5 71.9 77.2
2 Australia 73.2 70.8 75.5
3 France 73.1 69.3 76.9
4 Sweden 73.0 71.2 74.9
5 Spain 72.8 69.8 75.7
6 Italy 72.7 70.0 75.4
7 Greece 72.5 70.5 74.6
8 Switzerland 72.5 69.5 75.5
9 Monaco 72.4 68.5 76.3
10 Andorra 72.3 69.3 75.2
11 San Marino 72.3 69.5 75.0
12 Canada 72.0 70.0 74.0
13 Netherlands 72.0 69.6 74.4
14 United Kingdom 71.7 69.7 73.7
15 Norway 71.7 68.8 74.6
16 Belgium 71.6 68.7 74.6
17 Austria 71.6 68.8 74.4
18 Luxembourg 71.1 68.0 74.2
19 Iceland 70.8 69.2 72.3
20 Finland 70.5 67.2 73.7
21 Malta 70.5 68.4 72.5
22 Germany 70.4 67.4 73.5
23 Israel 70.4 69.2 71.6
24 United States 70.0 67.5 72.6
[/SIZE]

World Health Organization Disability Adjusted Healthy Life Expectancy Table (HALE)

The countries listed above the US have for the most part Universal Health Care
 
Mar 2010
1,160
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#9
The countries listed above the US have for the most part Universal Health Care
Yes, but they also have greater equality and more work-life balance, which contribute to a less stressed population, and thus a healthier population.
Certainly part of the difference is explained by UHC. But I don't think UHC explains all, or even most, of the difference.
 
K

katiegrrl0

#10
Yes, but they also have greater equality and more work-life balance, which contribute to a less stressed population, and thus a healthier population.
Certainly part of the difference is explained by UHC. But I don't think UHC explains all, or even most, of the difference.
I think it works out in the average. If you can't afford health care you have a better chance of passing early in life. Universal heath care does allow people more and better access to treatment. It would add to the total of life expectancy.