NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 31, 2009

Before we turn to government as the solution, we should consider some unheralded facts about America's health care system, says Scott W. Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical School.

Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers:

  • Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom.
  • Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway.
  • The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians:

  • Breast cancer mortality in Canada is 9 percent higher than in the United States,
  • Prostate cancer is 184 percent higher,
  • And colon cancer among men is about 10 percent higher.

 Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries:

  • Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit from statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease, are taking them.
  • By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.  Take the proportion of the appropriate-age population groups who have received recommended tests for breast, cervical, prostate, and colon cancer:

  • Nine out of ten middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to fewer than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).
  • Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a Pap smear, compared to fewer than 90 percent of Canadians.
  • More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a prostatespecific antigen (PSA) test, compared to fewer than one in six Canadians (16 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with fewer than one in twenty Canadians (5 percent).

Source: Scott W. Atlas, "Here's A Second Opinion: Ten Reasons Why America's Health Care System is in Better Condition than You Might Suppose," Hoover Institution, Summer 2009.

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