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Because Tim Blair gets political commentry about Australia from Taiwan, it comes as no surprise that he gets his commentry on the States from England, from one Gerald Warner who reckons that Obama’s attempts to create a “Union of Soviet States of America” will fail and that he will be a one-term president. I think it is more likely that Warner has his fingers on a gin and tonic than on the pulse of the American people, but this claim intrigued me:

The one glimmer of realism [Obama] displayed was when he recently told an audience in Montana that, with regard to health care, he was “not in favour of the British system”. Perhaps he had just seen the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics revealing that more than 30,000 people have died in England and Wales from hospital infections in just five years. Translated proportionately into American demographics, that would be 150,000 fatalities. Not the best advertisement for socialised health care.

But, according the CDC:

In American hospitals alone, healthcare-associated infections account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year.

That’s about 500,000 deaths over five years, over three times the rate reported by Warner. Seems like maybe it is a good advertisement for socialised health care after all.

But since Warner is so careless with his facts, it would be a mistake not to check his claims about deaths from hospital infections in England and Wales, and sure enough, he got it wrong

The number of people dying due to MRSA and Clostridium difficile fell sharply last year but the superbug infections were still responsible for 30,000 deaths in five years, figures show. …

The number of death certificates mentioning MRSA — methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus — also fell by 23 per cent over the same period, to 1,230, the second year running that mentions have fallen.

So the number Warner gave wasn’t deaths from hospital infections at all — some infections with MRSA and C. difficile occur outside hospitals, and there are other infections that kill people in hospitals as well.

I couldn’t find the death rate from C. difficile in the USA, but for MRSA we have:

Using data from the ongoing Active Bacterial Core surveillance system, Klevens and colleagues looked at the incidence of invasive MRSA disease in nine US communities in 2005, and extrapolated from these to estimate the burden for the whole country. Based on their figures, the authors estimate that the rate of invasive MRSA for the whole country is 31.8 per 100,000. …

In total across the country, the authors estimate that there were 18,650 deaths from invasive MRSA in 2005.

In other words, the death rate from MRSA in the USA is about three times that of the UK. Seems like maybe it is a good advertisement for socialised health care after all.

Comments

  1. #1 bi -- IJI
    August 20, 2009

    Oh come on, Warner may have got the numbers wrong, but he was writing for a lay audience so it’s OK, and he’s just human and humans make mistakes, and besides Clinton Did It Too, and most importantly we must know the True Agenda™ behind Obama’s push for Socialized Medicine, namely to surreptitiously slip in provisions to allow Big Government™ to euthanize your grandma when it feels like it (which, in turn, is for some unstated nefarious purpose). Oh, and the Debate? over healthcare has become so Polarized™ that a Voice of Moderation™ is sorely needed…

  2. #2 Jefrir
    August 20, 2009

    Also, the high rate of infections in the UK in recent years has been linked to a move away from government control, not towards it. Hospitals went from employing their own cleaning staff to outsourcing to private contractors. Because it’s taxpayer money, they had to put it out to tender to the lowest bidder, and – guess what! – the companies charging less didn’t always have the highest standards.
    So, failure all round as a comparison, really.

  3. #3 Paul UK
    August 21, 2009

    Statistically the UK system is superior.
    It’s cheaper, it covers a greater percentage of people and fewer people die using it.
    Any capitalist or economist comparing the two would choose the UK system based on costs and reducing the economic burden on the the nation.

  4. #4 Mark
    August 21, 2009

    The UK system is among the worst in Europe.

    Yet it is still better than the US system.

    How about, if Tim Blair wants to learn of the mistakes the UK have made in their healthcare system should learn how their differences from other European countries’ healthcare systems make the UK system worse *and not implement them*?

  5. #5 bluegrue
    August 21, 2009

    It’s also instructive to read the [Obama quote in context](http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-in-town-hall-on-health-care-Belgrade-Montana/):
    >Having said that, most other countries have some form of single-payer system. There are differences — Canada and England have more of what’s called — what people I guess would call a socialized system, in the sense that government owns the hospitals, directly hires doctors — but there are a whole bunch of countries like the Netherlands where what they do is, it’s a single-payer system only in the sense that government pays the bill, but it’s all private folks out there — private doctors, private facilities. So there are a bunch of different ways of doing it.

    >Now, what we need to do is come up with a uniquely American way of providing care. (Applause.) ___So I’m not in favor of a Canadian system, I’m not in favor of a British system, I’m not in a favor of a French system. That’s not what Max is working on. Every one of us, what we’ve said is, let’s find a uniquely American solution because historically here in the United States the majority of people get their health insurance on the job.___ So let’s build on that system that already exists — because for us to completely change that, it would be too disruptive. That’s where suddenly people would lose what they have and they’d have to adjust to an entirely new system. And Max and I agree that’s not the right way to go.

    So all Obama was saying is to not copycat another country’s system, but to come up with a system tailored to US realities and needs.

    Why am I not surprised to find out that the quote was mined?

  6. #6 Paul UK
    August 21, 2009

    >The UK system is among the worst in Europe.

    Yeah but many of those that think that, don’t consider the UK to be in Europe!

    I was keeping the comparison between the US and UK, I forgot to explicitly state that though.

  7. #7 Mike
    August 21, 2009

    Innumerable EU surgeons come to American to practice medicine – nobody leaves the US to practice in the EU. When people around the world get sick, they come to the US for treatment. The greatest medical technologies, drugs, and innovations come from American companies. America’s system is expensive but it delivers results. However, it doens’t matter how good healthcare is if the population is fundamentally unhealthy. Americans need to control their obesity (diet and exercise) before our “health” equals our “health care”!

  8. #8 Mark
    August 21, 2009

    > Yeah but many of those that think that, don’t consider the UK to be in Europe!

    Given that most of the english are french or german, I (as a TRUE British: i.e. Welsh) don’t see the difference between Europe and the UK…

    Flippin foreigners!
    :-P

  9. #9 Mark
    August 21, 2009

    > Innumerable EU surgeons come to American to practice medicine – nobody leaves the US to practice in the EU.

    Because you can ream the patient for more money.

    This doesn’t mean that the patient care is better.

    > they come to the US for treatment.

    Nope, they come to France or the UK. They go to the US only if they can pay and the treatment is too expensive or unsafe.

    > America’s system is expensive but it delivers results.

    Unfortunately, the result is a less healthy society.

    Still technically a result, but only misanthropes will call it a “result!”.

  10. #10 Donald Oats
    August 21, 2009

    The notion of having health insurance provided on the job seems to have a misplaced sense of confidence in keeping gainfully employed, considering that the USA is the capitalist nation of the world.

  11. #11 Mike
    August 21, 2009

    Mark: You seem to miss my point. Americans are an unhealthy lot. Prevalence of obesity & diabetes is 3x that of Europe, and these comorbidities drive complications and costs. “Health care” does not determine a society’s “health.” Individual lifestyle choices drive our societal health. Thus, the current US health care system is not “broken”. It is merely expensive.

  12. #12 Dave Andrews
    August 21, 2009

    bi -IJI

    “and he’s just human and humans make mistakes,”

    I didn’t notice you saying that about RP a few posts back.

  13. #13 Aureola Nominee, FCD
    August 21, 2009

    Pssst. Psssst! Mr. Andrews!

    bi-IJI was sarcastically rehashing the excuses denialists routinely make for the sloppiness of their pet “experts”.

    You’re welcome.

  14. #14 QrazyQat
    August 21, 2009

    Prevalence of obesity & diabetes is 3x that of Europe, and these comorbidities drive complications and costs.

    “More than 16% of US nationals had diabetes, compared with 11% of Europeans, according to a study published online in the journal Health Affairs.”

    I’ve seen obesity listed in the USA as about 65%, in France 42%, although a Rutgers study I see shows these numbers:

    34.3 USA
    14.3 Norway
    11.2 Netherlands
    13.7 Latvia
    24 England
    22.7 Canada
    20.8 Australia

    None of these seem to slice and dice to anywhere near 3x.

  15. #15 anthony
    August 22, 2009

    but in America they died free men!

  16. #16 frankis
    August 22, 2009

    A particularly nice slice and dice tnx Tim.

    Mike: perhaps (just “perhaps”) there is more connection between your two concessions about the state of US health than you’ve considered? How about “The US is in some respects a gluttonous culture in which peasants are fattened up to be preyed upon by surgeons, drug companies and others – discuss”? Seems parsimonious, maybe it’s unfair, is it more wrong than some alternative, at least equally explanatory cartoon?

  17. #17 bi -- IJI
    August 22, 2009

    Surely Mike must be the Voice of Moderation? who is come to deliver us from Polarization?.

  18. #18 bi -- IJI
    August 22, 2009

    Anyway, let me try to paraphrase Mike’s argument.

    The US system delivers worse results because people don’t exercise personal responsibility. However, this system is clearly better because it encourages personal responsibility, unlike in the UK where personal responsibility is discouraged, because reducing the incentive for personal responsibility will cause fewer people to exercise personal responsibility. However, even though the UK system discourages personal responsibility, the better health of her citizens is explained by the fact that UK citizens have higher personal responsibility, even though by right they should have a lower level of personal responsibility, but there’s no contradiction here because at this point I’ll just keep waving my hands frantically.

  19. #19 Paul UK
    August 22, 2009

    Mike:
    >You seem to miss my point. Americans are an unhealthy lot…
    Thus, the current US health care system is not “broken”. It is merely expensive.

    Actually even if Americans were healthier, the US health system would still be broken, expensive and exclude tens of millions of people.

  20. #20 Paul UK
    August 22, 2009

    anthony:
    >but in America they died free men!

    So free, that street anarchy results in families to retreat into gated communities where they can live with strict rules to govern their behaviour.

    [sras](http://www.sras.org/the_kommunalka_and_gated_communities “sras”)
    [florida](http://www.findsouthwestfloridahomes.com/condominium-and-homeowner-associations.php “Florida rules”)

  21. #21 Jeremy C
    August 22, 2009

    I noticed that Obabma played host at the Whitehouse this week to a victim of the UK’s NHS…..some guy called….Hawking. Discraceful how this guy’s pre exisitng medical condition milked the UK taxpayer for so many years. Just think in the states a guy like this would never get away with such a ruse, I’m sure he actually brought it on himself. Good on Tim Blair for giving us the truth.

  22. #22 bi -- IJI
    August 22, 2009

    Jeremy C:

    > Discraceful how this guy’s pre exisitng medical condition milked the UK taxpayer for so many years.

    No doubt, it’s an anti-American medical condition. Possibly treasonous too.

  23. #23 sod
    August 22, 2009

    the better figures of the british health care system will soon change, when the Vitter plan to collapse all national health care systems by buying cheap prescription drugs there finally hits home….

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/vitter-destroying-canadas-prescription-drug-system-will-lower-prices-for-americans.php

  24. #24 Ian Gould
    August 22, 2009

    “When people around the world get sick, they come to the US for treatment. ”

    They also travel to India and Malaysia.

    Since Americans are amongst those traveling ot India and other countries as medical tourists, I can only conclude that the standard of medical care there is higher than in the US.

  25. #25 Robin Levett
    August 24, 2009

    @Mike:

    The greatest medical technologies, drugs, and innovations come from American companies.

    Really? Are you sure?

    Top ten pharmas by healthcare turnover:

    Pfizer – US
    Johnson & Johnson – US
    GlaxoSmithKline – UK
    Bayer – German
    Hoffman Laroche – Swiss
    Sanofi-Aventis – French
    Novartis – Swiss
    Astra-Zeneca – UK/Swedish
    Abbott Labs – US
    Merck & Co – US

    4 out of 10 are US; 1 & 2, and 9 & 10.

    Healthcare turnover for those companies:

    US-owned – $185.6bn.
    Eebil cheese-eating surrender-monkey European-owned – $199.8bn.

    US pharmaceutical prices are inflated by much higher marketing expenditure in the US market; a little under twice as much is spent on marketing as on R&D (whereas under UK NHS pricing that proportion is more than reversed, to 1:3).

  26. #26 waldo
    August 24, 2009

    The average working stiff Yank is poor. Obama should copy Auustralia’s system. Some people say Tim Blair goes down on goats.

  27. #27 Mark
    August 25, 2009

    > Mark: You seem to miss my point. Americans are an unhealthy lot.

    Mike, that doesn’t make sense.

    Unhealthy lifestyles are undertaken by everyone. The per capita (that is PER PERSON) cost is higher in the US. So unless you are saying that Americans are lazy, selfish and short-sighted, the “unhealthy lot” doesn’t make a difference.

    And lifestyle excesses are easier and cheaper to work out than accidents and natural tragedies.

    Turning up at the dialysis machine because you’re a lush can be arranged.

    Ending up in a car accident cannot.

  28. #28 BlackSunshine84
    September 3, 2010

    I love Gerald Warner! If not for his commentaries, I wouldn’t bother reading the Telegraph UK at all…