How Much Does Health Care Matter?

A new study in the influential policy journal Health Affairs gives added credence to the idea that much of what drives health falls outside of the realm of medical care. In fact, this must-read study points out what so many of us know: that simply providing someone a health insurance card is not enough to make them healthy.

What better place to test this theory than in Canada – our northern neighbor with a publicly financed universal health care system. Researchers looked at nearly 15,000 Canadians in the nation’s health system who were free of heart disease and tracked them for at least a decade.  Not surprisingly, people disadvantaged by little education and low income, used the health care system more than those with higher incomes. But more importantly, this increased use of services had no discernable effect on improving their health or cutting their death rates — the ultimate bottom line — when compared with others with higher education, higher income and LESS usage of health care

This is from Jim Marks, writing at The Health Care Blog. See our previous post here.

Comments (9)

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  1. Joe S. says:

    Not surprising. If health care does matter, I think we can conclude that even though low-income patients got more care they didn’t get as much care as they really needed.

  2. Joe Barnett says:

    Sounds like the way to boost the health of the poor is to increase their wealth.

  3. Larry C. says:

    Here’s an interesting question: Are low income Canadians getting more health care today then they would have received if there had never been a nationalized health care system (Medicare)?

  4. Nate says:

    I believe that NCPA studies have established that there is more heatlh care inequality in Canada than in the United States.

  5. Devon Herrick says:

    How much does health care matter? That may be a rhetorical question. But the answer is: it depends upon your wealth, your lifestyle and your genes.

  6. Linda Gorman says:

    Once again we are suppsed to believe that differences in death rates will tell us how effective modern medicine is.

    The problem is that a great deal of modern medical spending has little to do with preventing death. Instead, it is aimed at preventing, ameloriating, or curing morbidity. Even if everyone in both countries dies at 85, it makes a big difference whether they are wheelchair or housebound from 60 on because they are denied joint replacements, or cataract surgery, or portable oxygen.

    Not to mention different behavioral factors that affect health, things like substance abuse, drug use, marital status, miles driven, and the homocidal tendencies of one’s neighbors.

  7. Nate, NCPA has surveyed the literature and debunked commonly held notions of “universal” health coverage. The most compelling (IMHO) original study to which you refer is by June & David O’Neill, published as National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper #134290 in 2007.

    A book by Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John R. Schneider, The Business of Health: The Role of Competition, Markets, and Regulation (Washington, DC: The AEI Press, 2006) examined questions of gun violence and traffic accidents as contributors to international differences in health outcomes.

    Unfortunately, the left looks at the evidence we are discussing and concludes that the correct prescription is even more social engineering: spreading the wealth around, re-educating the masses so that they’ll behave “better”, etc.

  8. artk says:

    Well John, I always wondered why the Europeans, who spend less on health care than the US live longer. Now I know, the more you spend the less healthy you are. Maybe if we reduce our health care spending to zero we can live forever.

  9. Virginia says:

    Perhaps a wholesale shift in government spending to more education is in order?

    Although, given the state of our public schools, I am not sure that would be beneficial.