Older Americans sicker, but outlive British counterparts

We’re number one! We’re number one!

Sure, the UK has that fancy no-citizen-left-behind healthcare plan (and gloating hashtag, #welovetheNHS) but healthcare reform opponents got a shot in the arm with a new study that indicates while older Brits may be slightly healthier, Americans of a similar age cling on longer in their twilight years. The study contends that yanks aged 55 to 64 and 70 to 80 (where did the intervening four years get off to?) tend to suffer more chronic diseases than Brits of the same age groups, but died at the same rate. And while people in the US over 65 tend to be sicker than Brits of that age, they live longer:

“If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States,” study author James P. Smith, PhD, of the nonprofit RAND corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., says in a news release. “It appears that at least in terms of survival at older ages with chronic disease, the medical system in the United States may be better than the system in England.”

It seems a bit overreaching and shortsighted to conclude the US system is “better” than that in the UK, particularly given that inadequate medical care in the earlier stages of life could very well lead to the chronic illnesses observed in the over-65 set. If anything, this study could prove that we’re not saving money or lives by delaying treatment for those who need it badly, rather just putting off a debt that accrues hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest in future medical expenses and lost potential. Of course, that, like the idea that one system trumps the other, is mere speculation.