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Health Care Statistics 101

In a healthcare statistics class I had last year, the instructor told us that the United States ranked seventh in infant mortality and she asked us - the class - what we thought might be the reason for the US not being number one, having the best available health care in the world and all. I raised my hand and told her that it was likely that every other country that ranked ahead of us had universal health care while the US did not and factors like better pre-natal care and such were the reasons for this. The instructor, bless her, looked puzzled by this news as if this were the very first time she'd ever heard such a thing.

Here's another more recent statistic: The United States now ranks twenty-third in over all life spans. Twenty two other countries have citizens who live longer than us. Do you think those countries might have universal health care for all their citizens? As you read this, forty five million Americans have no health insurance at all. That's about twenty percent of our population (I think. I actually didn't do all that well in that statistics class). There is no other industrialized country in the world that would trade their healthcare system for ours, that is their socialized healthcare system.

But Steve, I don't want the government providing my healthcare! That was a statement I heard from my brother-in-law years back when Bill Clinton was attempting to provide healthcare to all Americans. In reply to my brother-in-law - the postman - I mentioned that the government was already providing healthcare to him and it seemed to working out for him just fine. He was a bit nonplused, but not for long and I forget how the rest of our discussion went.

More statistics: The administrative costs for Medicaid and Medicare are two percent, that is, this is the cost that these agencies charge to distribute and administer funds. The comparable costs for insurance companies to perform the same service is between thirteen and thirty percent, in other words they are six to fifteen times less efficient than the despicable, inefficient government in providing the same service.

But how can that be? Everybody knows that private industry is automatically better than government because of competition and all that. Right? Well, first of all, not necessarily, and second it isn't the function of government to provide services as cheaply as possible while charging the most money possible and lining their pockets with the rest. But that is exactly what private companies do.

Here's something not a lot of people don't know about insurance companies: They don't make money only from taking people's money and then paying out less than that so they make a profit; Insurance companies invest the money in the stock market. A major reason for the rise in medical insurance after the year 2000 was that the insurance companies had to make up for stock market. You didn't pay more because you were getting better services in order to better save your life. You paid more because the people you had entrusted with your money had gambled it all away. No one would stand for them taking their money to Vegas and putting it on the Roulette table, but that's more or less what they did and the odds were poorer.

About the Author: Steve Sommers is the author of Breakfast with the Antichrist. His new novel, Rexroi, along with the best of Australian Science Fiction - is available as an ebook at, OR if you ABSOLUTELY need to turn pages when you read - at

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