Bryan Caplan  

Health Care and Life Expectancy: Numerators Versus Denominators

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The Sensible Knave's newborn daughter was born a couple months early. But not only is she doing well, she's giving her dad some thought-provoking ideas about international health comparisons. The highlight:

In a tragic sort of way, inferior prenatal care could actually boost average life expectancy while lowering health care costs. Adequedate prenatal care may reduce the incidence of miscarriage, especially in the second half of pregnancy. Had my wife's perinatologist not detected her dilating cervix in the 22nd week of pregnancy, we would probably have lost our daughter. And she would have been a miscarriage statistic, not an infant mortality statistic.

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Late fetal death rates are lower in the United States than in many industrialized countries. Here are some 2001 rates for selected countries, taken from the table:

United States - 3.2
Canada - 3.3
Germany - 3.9
Sweden - 3.8
United Kingdom - 5.3 (2000, latest available data)
France - 4.6 (1999, latest available data)

Despite my overall skepticism about the benefits of health care, my own experience with premature births makes me think the Sensible Knave is one of the most lucid new dads around.


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