America is the best place to be old

Victor Joecks

In the world.

This may come as a shock to people – even I was a bit surprised – because we hear so often that U.S. life expectancy lags behind other countries with socialized health care, but Mark Steyn points out that the “longer you live in America, the longer you live.”

America is the Afghanistan of the western world: That’s to say, it has a slightly higher infant mortality rate than other developed nations (there are reasons for that which I’ll discuss in an upcoming column). That figure depresses our overall “life expectancy at birth.” But, if you can make it out of diapers, you’ll live longer than you would pretty much anywhere else. By age 40, Americans’ life expectancy has caught up with Britons’. By 60, it equals Germany’s. At the age of 80, Americans have greater life expectancy than Swedes.


Well, amazingly, millions of freeborn citizens’ exercising their own judgment as to which of the latest drugs, tests, and procedures suits their own best interests has given Americans a longer, better, more fulfilling old age to the point where there are entire states designed to cater to it. (There is no Belgian or Scottish Florida.) I had an elderly British visitor this month who’s had a recurring problem with her left hand. At one point it swelled up alarmingly and so we took her to the emergency room. They did a CT scan, X-rays, blood samples, the works. In two hours at a small, rural, undistinguished, no-frills hospital in northern New Hampshire, this lady got more tests than she’s had in the last decade in Britain – even though she goes to see her doctor once a month. He listens sympathetically, tells her old age often involves adjusting to the loss of mobility, and then advises her to take the British version of Tylenol and rest up. Anything else would use up those valuable resources. So, in two hours in New Hampshire, she got tested and diagnosed (with gout) and prescribed something to deal with it. It’s the difference between health “care” (i.e., going to the doctor’s every month to no purpose) and health treatment – and on the latter America is the best in the world.

Just something to keep in mind as the health care debate unfolds.

Also worth keeping in mind: The incoming President of the Canadian Medical Association says the Canadian system is “imploding.”