Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Decline in Life Expectancy Among Non-High School Graduates in the U. S. Illustrates the Problem With Having the Best Health Care System in the World

And Yes Liberals, Personal Responsibility Does Play a Role

Those who adopt the “No Apology” attitude towards anything the United States does will argue that whatever the topic, the U. S. does it best.  This of course is not true.  Health care fits into this category, because although it is documented that the United States spends more on health care per capita than any other country, the health of the people of the U. S. doesn’t rank first. 

One reason for that is the great disparity in health care provided to various income groups.  Have a nice middle or upper management position with a corporation, or a job with a governmental unit and your health insurance and health care is fantastic.  Work as a low skilled, low level worker in the private sector, particularly in the service sector and your access to health care is greatly limited.  The impact of all of this is shown in newly released statistics on life expectancy among those without a high school diploma.  It is deplorable.  It is getting worse.

The decline among the least educated non-Hispanic whites, who make up a shrinking share of the population, widened an already troubling gap. The latest estimate shows life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated white men compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

There is no clear cause that researchers found for this horrific set of statistics.  Clearly lifestyle is a factor.

Overdoses from prescription drugs have spiked since 1990, disproportionately affecting whites, particularly women. Professor Miech, of the University of Colorado, noted the rise in a 2011 paper in the American Sociological Review, arguing that it was among the biggest changes for whites in recent decades and that it appeared to have offset gains for less educated people in the rate of heart attacks.

Ms. Montez, who studies women’s health, said that smoking was a big part of declines in life expectancy for less educated women. Smoking rates have increased among women without a high school diploma, both white and black, she said. But for men of the same education level, they have declined.

And so those that say there needs to be more personal responsibility have a point.  But those people tend to argue that this lack of personal responsibility is the only problem.  It is not.  The sad truth is that in the United States working people without a high school education have access to the health care system only when they are very ill.  They do not have access to preventive programs, or early detection programs or educational programs.  They are largely the forgotten people, caught between very low income people who have access through Medicaid and higher income people who have access from employer sponsored health insurance.

So what about America being the best in the world?  Statistics tell a different story.

The dropping life expectancies have helped weigh down the United States in international life expectancy rankings, particularly for women. In 2010, American women fell to 41st place, down from 14th place in 1985, in the United Nations rankings. Among developed countries, American women sank from the middle of the pack in 1970 to last place in 2010, according to the Human Mortality Database.

Yes, in life expectancy for women in developed countries, we’re number 1.  Assuming you mean number 1 is the bottom of the pack.

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