NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Look At The Outcomes

August 25, 2010

A reasonable way to judge a health care system is to look at outcomes -- how people fare after diagnosis or when stricken with illness, say David Gratzer, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation. 

Although there is a dearth of such data, cancer offers an opportunity to make an international comparison: The illness is common; every Western country collects good data; and cancer is a research and treatment priority.  

According to two major studies, the United States fares excellently, say Gratzer and Matthews. 

First, a working group associated with the European nongovernmental organization Confederation for Relief and Development completed a study comparing five-year cancer survival rates for several malignancies.   The international results replicate those that appeared in a broader cancer review of Europe and the United States.  For the 16 types of cancer examined: 

  • American men have a five-year survival rate of 66 percent, compared with only 47 percent for European men.
  • In Europe, only Sweden has an overall survival rate of more than 60 percent.
  • American women have a 63 percent chance of living at least five years after a cancer diagnosis, compared with 56 percent for European women.
  • Only five European countries have an overall survival rate of more than 60 percent. 

Looking at specific cancers yields striking results, say Gratzer and Matthews: 

  • For men, the bladder cancer survival rate in the United States is 15 percent higher than the European average.
  • For American women, the uterine cancer survival rate is 5 percent higher than the European average; for breast cancer, it is 14 percent higher.
  • The United States has survival rates of 90 percent or higher for five cancers (skin melanoma, breast, prostate, thyroid and testicular), but there is only one cancer for which the European survival rate reaches 90 percent (testicular). 

Source: David Gratzer and Merrill Matthews, "Last in Credibility: The liberal campaign to discredit American health care," Weekly Standard, August 16, 2010. 

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