Americans sicker but English die quicker says study

Thu Nov 4, 2010 9:28am EDT
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By Kate Kelland and Julie Steenhuysen

LONDON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Older Americans suffer more chronic disease than their English counterparts, but the English die earlier, according to a study on Thursday that could revive debate about whose health system is better.

Researchers at the U.S.-based RAND Corp and Britain's Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that while Americans aged 55 and older have higher rates of chronic disease, they live longer than elderly people who get ill in England.

"If you get sick at older ages, you will die sooner in England than in the United States," said James Smith, an economist with RAND in Santa Monica, California, who co-authored the study with James Banks and Alastair Muriel of the IFS.

"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."

But that edge comes at a price.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data show the United States spends more on healthcare than any other nation, and Banks said spending on healthcare for the elderly in the U.S. is almost double that in England.

In 2008, the latest year for which full OECD figures are available, the United States spent 16 percent of its national output or $7,538 per person on health -- well over double the $3,000 per person average of all OECD countries.

British politicians leapt to defend the state-funded National Health System when it was attacked during the 2009 U.S. presidential election campaign by Republicans who used criticism of the NHS -- which they called a socialist system -- to stoke opposition to Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.   Continued...

<p>An elderly man in a electric wheelchair smokes a cigar as he rides through Hyde Park in London, May 19, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>