The problem with health care is costs and you

Conservatives will note that lack of access to care does not seem to be resulting in shorter life spans. Liberals will argue that current reform efforts are geared specifically to making the system more efficient and focusing on issues like weight and smoking that kill millions.

Demographer Samuel Preston of the University of Pennsylvania has crunched the numbers on life and death and finds no big problems with the U.S. health system.

Except, that is, for the cost. And you. (Illustration from the blog of Home Base Holidays.)

Preston looked at numbers on life expectancy and death rates, going back decades, and found Americans don't fare that badly compared with Europeans, and on some measures (like cancer screenings) we do quite well.

Any gap in life expectancy, he writes, is due to deaths in middle age. And most of those are due to smoking -- U.S. smoking rates were once among the highest in the world. If we also lost some weight we would live as long as people anywhere.

The results can, and will, be spun from both sides of the partisan divide:

  • The health care system is not broken.
  • The health care system is inefficient and pays too little attention to wellness issues.

Conservatives will note that lack of access to care does not seem to be resulting in shorter life spans. Liberals will argue that current reform efforts are geared specifically to making the system more efficient and focusing on issues like weight and smoking that kill millions.

Taking responsibility for preventing disease, not just treating it, will lead to cries of nanny state from some. But Nannyism works.