Mark Steyn: Once you’re out of diapers it’s smooth sailing

Why low life-expectancy rates in the U.S.—due to high infant mortality—shouldn’t lead to government-run health care


The fact that life expectancy is lower in the U.S. than in many industrialized countries is among the most often-repeated fallacies in defense of health care-reform, Mark Steyn writes in the Orange County Register. The real reason life expectancy is lower has nothing to do with the care Americans receive, but is rather the result of relatively high infant mortality rates. In fact, Steyn argues, “if you can make it out of diapers, you’ll live longer than you would pretty much anywhere else. By age 40, Americans’ life expectancy has caught up with Britons’. By 60, it equals Germany’s. At the age of 80, Americans have greater life expectancy than Swedes.” Though Steyn doesn’t go into detail about the high number of child deaths—his insights into pediatric care will apparently be featured in a future column—he unequivocally claims Americans’ treatment options once they’ve passed early childhood are “the best in the world.” And that should be reason enough, he concludes, to oppose any project that seeks to “[interject] a bureaucracy between you and your health.”

Orange County Register

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Mark Steyn: Once you’re out of diapers it’s smooth sailing

  1. At 80, Americans are on Medicare, getting government-run (or at least, government paid) health care.

    And of course America has the best treatment options, but they're only available for those who can pay for them – most can't.

    And there already is a bureaucracy between Americans and their health care, it's just not run by the government.

    Oh, and lastly, none of those points even matter, because the US government isn't proposing mandatory government-run health care, only a public option – naturally, it's completely OPTIONAL.

  2. And there already is a bureaucracy between Americans and their health care, it's just not run by the government.

    If there has ever been more ignorant words spoken aloud , or typed , please let me know .

    I do hope you were joking .

    • I do hope YOU know that there is such a thing as a private sector bureaucracy. I'm part of one. You want an example of a huge one, think IBM.

      • The difference is, no matter how big IBM or any other private sector bureaucracy may become, if it does not perform it will go under. There is a significant difference between a government bureaucracy and a private one.

        • Very true! The private bureaucracy does need to perform in order to survive, but performing for them means making money, not providing quality service.

          • making money, not providing quality service

            The two are one and the same, so long as there is healthy competition. That is why public bureaucracies are worse, they are never subject to competition.

            If you don't provide quality, you will lose to competitors, and go under.

            If you do not make money, by definition (you are consuming more resources than you are producing), you will go under. In fact, if you earn less than competitors, that means your competitors can produce the same while consuming less resources. They can lower prices and drive you under, or they can invest and drive you under.

          • Providing quality service? Are you really referring to Insurance companies?? Get Real: the bureaucracy that you deal with in an insurance company is a cost center, their mission is to minimize costs by trying to refuse claims, their performance is measured by how much money they save the company. "quality service" doesn't enter into it.

            About losing to competitors, perhaps that might be true in an ideal world with no barriers to entry into the insurance industry. In the real world, forget it, there's not a lot of competition so you basically get the same (lousy) service everywhere.

            And, as Steyn says, there is a bureaucracy between you and your healthcare.

          • What are the barriers to entry? Of all industries, insurance has one of the lowest entry barriers.

            There are thousands of insurance companies, so how can you claim there is no competition? Are you one of those conspiracy theorists?

            Get real.

            Everything you said about saving money would apply to a government bureaucracy as well, but the difference is that it's a monopoly, so there is nothing that you can do about it, absolutely nothing, you take what they give you.

        • Like AIG? Like CitiGroup? Like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley? Like Ford? Like GM?
          Go play in the street, little baby. Grownups are talking about serious things.

        • "if it does not perform it will go under"

          There's been this little thing called the banker bailouts that you might want to read up on…….

    • Not just IBM, think of any insurance company. Bureaucracy personified.

  3. Yes, Bill, more ignorant words has (sic) indeed been spoken, both of the nature of bureaucracies and (of course) the English language. Sadly for you, if you were wondering if you had won some sort of dumba$$ contest, the answer is 'no.' After all, the current conversation revolves around a Steyn column.

    • huzzah!

  4. This is very interesting stuff, this age-dependent mortality, and it's amazing that nobody but Steyn has managed to uncover it.

    The fact is, there are many, many factors that go into mortality rates (crime, diet, exercise, risk), and there are also many factors that go into levels of health spending (affluency, disposable income, health, availabiity, prevention) , so it is not helpful to spout about these issues without looking into them in more detail.

  5. "But, under any government system that interjects a bureaucracy between you and your health, the elderly and not so elderly get denied treatment. And there's nothing you can do about it because, ultimately, government health represents the nationalization of your body. You're 84, 72, 63, 58, you've had a good innings. It's easy for him to say. And even easier for his army of bureaucrats."
    – Mark Steyn

    Wonderfully written… as Dr. Frank Luntz wrote, Health reform is popular

    There is a better approach. "In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you'll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can't have that in America."
    – Dr. Frank Luntz

    • I remember when an insurance company decided I couldn't have groceries as they took over six months before deciding to actually pay my legitimate disability claim.

      Insurance companies definitely have a huge bureaucracy. They also make decisions about your life for you, and by their actions, they decide whether you eat or starve; pay rent or get evicted; stay in good finances, or go deep into debt.

      What recourse did I have, beyond calling, writing, emailing every week? FSCO would do nothing to speed it up. There is no recourse. The insurance companies all operate the same way; to make money, and protect their industry from anything that could hinder their ability to make money.

      I'd rather not have an insurance company bankrupt me for primary care costs as well.

    • Who is more likely to deny you health care: a government or an insurance company?

      Easy: the one who has the biggest incentive to deny you the care (hint: it's the insurance company).

      • Proper link: Frank Luntz warns GOP: Health reform is popular

        Anyways… the little old British lady was a nice touch. As Dr. Luntz states in Step (5),

        "The healthcare denial horror stories from Canada & Co. do resonate, but you have to humanize them."

  6. I have read elsewhere that infant mortality is "higher" in the USA because just about any live birth after some cutoff (twenty weeks? twenty-two?) is counted in the USA. The more severe the prematurity, the greater likelihood of death. But that evil US health care system will do its damnedest to save you, and often does (we can debate separately the wisdom of saving babies at that low end, but pushing the envelope back from mild prematurity is what got us this far, and a 34-weeker not doing well is now the exception). Other countries just don't count them to begin with.

    So an American "lost cause" premature baby counts as a case of infant mortality, and pulls down life expectancy a lot. A non-American "lost cause" never existed in the first place, statistically. I do not know if Canada follows the same vital stats rules as the USA. Does anyone know?

    I suppose a mention to that effect (among possibly others) will find its way into Steyn's "next column." But hey, don't let that stop y'all making fun of his arguments with or without having read them.

  7. Other than his issue with public healthcare, I think Steyn has some interesting arguments. But I would argue that infant mortality rates are so high because so many mothers cannot afford prenatal care, so it is back to the healthcare system and its lack of affordability. And trust me, you would far rather have your government between you and healthcare than an insurance company out to make money. The former isn't out for a profit so they are far less likely to arbitrarily deny you service, if ever. Our system has flaws, but at least I know that my government isn't going to tell me leukemia is a "pre-existing condition" and deny me treatment.

  8. Well, we thought there was a problem, but apparently it's just babies dying. Whew.

  9. "By age 40, Americans' life expectancy has caught up with Britons'. By 60, it equals Germany's. At the age of 80, Americans have greater life expectancy than Swedes."

    GREAT! By paying MORE for health care, US life expectancy will EQUAL the UK's by age 40 and EQUAL Germany's by 60.

    THANK GOD you are not in sales Mr. Steyn.

  10. "By age 40, Americans' life expectancy has caught up with Britons'. By 60, it equals Germany's. At the age of 80, Americans have greater life expectancy than Swedes."

    GREAT! By paying MORE for health care, US life expectancy will EQUAL the UK's by age 40 and EQUAL Germany's by 60.

    And look out for the mass immigration of 80 year-olds from Sweden to the US, now that this handly little factoid is well known.

    THANK GOD you are not in sales Mr. Steyn.