Health Care Expectancy

"Life expectancy" brings to mind the idea of "healthcare expectancy." How long we expect to live has a lot to do with what we expect from our healthcare system.

Yesterday the National Center for Health Statistics released the latest life expectancy estimates. A child born in the U.S. in 2006 is likely to live approximately 78 years if mortality trends remain consistent. It's a new American record for predicted longevity, but as everything in healthcare goes, there's a flip side.
The U.S. still ranks behind about 30 other countries in estimated life span. (Japan holds first place with 83 years.)
Disparities remain: white women lead the list with 81 years, followed by black women with 77, white men with 76 and black men with 70.
These new statistics will stir debate over our return on investment as the nation that spends the most, by far, on healthcare. But the verdict depends on what we expect.
Overall, I believe our nation does not receive the level of care merited by our enormous expenditure. In individual cases, however, such as my nephew who overcame childhood cancer and is now a remarkable, robust 20-something, we receive priceless miracles.
Our "expectancy" for life and healthcare is skewed. We expect a long and healthy life. If that isn't our lot, we expect medical miracles to save us, restore our vitality and preserve us from serious illness. For ourselves and loved ones, we're all too willing to go to extraordinary measures to prolong life, even in its last days and against very steep odds.
As long as we insist on expecting so much from life and healthcare, our healthcare system will continue to fall short of our expectations. We will not lead the world in life expectancy. And all our citizens will not get the care and support they need to have long healthy lives.
We're at yet another crossroads for healthcare reform. As we examine the system, we'll also need to examine our expectations.
 — Tom DeSanto

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