Pundits and politicians like to say the United States has the best health care in the world. If so, it’s not showing up in how long we live, a new study suggests.
While life expectancies in some parts of the U.S. match those of the healthiest nations on earth, in vast swaths of this country preschoolers can expect to live no longer than their peers in some of the poorest and most strife-ridden parts of the world.
That holds true in the Kansas City area, where life expectancies in Johnson County match those of Switzerland and Sweden, while those in Wyandotte County are more like what’s found in Libya or Sri Lanka. Jackson County life expectancies compare to those in Mexico and Uruguay, and Clay County’s to those in Cuba.
“What are we getting for our health care dollar if we’re spending more per capita than any other country and we have the life expectancies of countries that are reeling from civil wars or natural disasters?” asked William Heisel of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “By many measures, we should have better outcomes.”
The institute, based at the University of Washington, compiled data on every county in the U.S. to calculate life expectancy each year from 1989 through 2009. It also compared county life expectancies to those in other countries.