I am far from knowledgeable about health care, but one thing I have read in many different places is that survival rates for many diseases are higher in America than in western countries with socialized health care systems. And I recall this very question being debated during the Republican primary.

This comes to mind because of a post (h/t Andrew Sullivan) from noted health care scholar Ezra Klein (that’s a joke, kids) in which Klein says something very silly:

In 2006, adjusted for purchasing power, the United Kingdom spent $2,760 per person on health care. America spent $6,714. It’s a difference of almost $4,000 per person, spread across the population. That’s $4,000 that can go into wages, or schools, or defense, or luxury, or mortgage-backed securities. And there’s no evidence that Britain’s aggregate outcomes are noticeable [sic] worse.

Bollocks, as they say in Britain. During the Republican primary, when Rudy Giuliani invoked America’s better-than-European cancer survival rates, one Ezra Klein, noted health care scholar, contested the claim (along with several others). Giuliani campaign adviser and actual health care policy scholar David Gratzer replied:

Americans do better when diagnosed with cancer than their European counterparts do. Since the publication of my City Journal essay, the prestigious journal Lancet Oncology has released a landmark study on cancer survival rates. Its findings:

* The American five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is 99 percent, the European average is 78 percent, and the Scottish and Welsh rate is close to 71 percent. (English data were incomplete.)

* For the 16 different types of cancer examined in the study, American men have a five-year survival rate of 66 percent, compared with only 47 percent for European men. Among European countries, only Sweden has an overall survival rate for men 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. For women, only five European countries have an overall survival rate of more than 60 percent.

These data, recently released, are now the best available. They too confirm Giuliani’s point: he was fortunate to be treated here.

But this controversy really isn’t about health care. It’s about the need for people who support the dramatic expansion of government to minimize, obfuscate, or render illusory the trade-offs inherent in such expansion.

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