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Rand Corp. study says US health care for elderly superior to UK's

I've written before - in fact more than once - about statistics purporting to show that the U.S. health care system stinks compared with those of, say, Canada or Europe. It appears these apples-and-oranges comparisons may be full of beans.

The evidence keeps piling up. In a just-out Rand Corporation study, investigators compared older American versus older English citizens' death rates from various aging-associated diseases. Older Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with such increasingly common conditions as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and the like. Is this evidence of an inferior U.S. health care system?

Probably not. Those suffering from these syndromes in the U.S. are only half as likely to die from them as their British counterparts. As a result, the afflicted Americans live at least as long as the afflicted British. Overall, 65-year-old Americans can expect to outlive their like-aged friends across the pond by about three months, despite their higher likelihood of having or getting an aging-associated illness.

The researchers note two possible explanations for why sick elders live longer in America than in England:

One is that the illnesses studied result in higher mortality in England than in the United States. The second is that the English are diagnosed at a later stage in the disease process than Americans.

Either explanation, they add, implies a more responsive health care system in the U.S. - at least for older people, who have nearly universal access to it. The fault appears to lie not in the health care system we Americans frequent (if you ignore its expense), but in our own lifestyle choices and, perhaps, other factors outside the control of both our health-care system and ourselves.

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