January 5 2012
Nicole Kurokawa Neily
Yesterday, the American Cancer Society released its 2012 statistics, bringing good news – death rates for lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers have fallen yet again!
Obviously, health care has long been one of IWF’s signature issues – we’ve fought long and hard against ObamaCare, because we believe that Americans deserve the autonomy to make their own health care decisions. We know that a market-based, patient-centered health care system will both give patients this control and provide better outcomes than a government-provided system.
To be sure, the U.S. health care system was far from ideal before ObamaCare; in 2009, Senator Tom Coburn noted that the government controlled 60 percent of the health care market (which has been both inefficient and fiscally unsustainable). That’s not quite a free market, but it’s a lot better than what’s found in the UK or Canada. Unfortunately, ObamaCare will take our country’s health system in a direction that may jeopardize future gains in addressing deadly diseases.
One crucial variable in the fight against cancer is early detection – which is certainly one of the reasons that the United States fares significantly better than Great Britain in breast cancer survival rates. In the US, women have the option to begin annual mammograms at age 40 – compared to the UK, where screening begins at age 50, and is only every three years. In many cases, the ability to start younger and to go more frequently can mean the difference between life and death.
In addition, the access to treatment options once cancer has been detected plays an important role. Unsurprisingly, long delays are frequent in the UK. According to a 2001 Health Affairs study, “63 percent of Canadian and 47 percent of U.K. physicians reported shortages of the latest medical and diagnostic equipment in their communities. In addition, more than 70 percent of U.K. and Canadian physicians reported a shortage of hospital beds; only 12 percent of U.S. physicians did so.”
Finally, the quality of treatment options affects survival rates. The United States leads the world in medical innovation, as it’s one of the few places that medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers can actually recoup the cost of bringing their products to market (well, for the time being at least.) Patients have more options available here – particularly as compared to places like the UK that have denied treatments determined “too expensive” by the government’s National Institute on Clinical Effectiveness (no joke – the acronym is “NICE”!)
In IWF’s October policy focus, “Health Care Regulations Don't Help - They Hurt!” my colleague Hadley put it best: “Americans know that the best prescriptions for their health care come from doctors—not government bureaucrats. We need to roll back excessive government regulation to create a dynamic health care system that provides better access, lower costs, more innovation, and most importantly, greater freedom and quality in health care.”