I was recently brought face to face with the nihilism that underlies the Left’s desire for socialized medicine, which they’re sure will bring with it the perfect statistics that routinely gladden socialist nations when the UN or WHO or some other Left-leaning world body compares healthcare statistics in various parts of the world. Invariably, those comparisons always show the U.S. health care system in a poor light. Who cares, of course, that the statistics are utterly bogus? They’re so beautiful to the statist eye.
My insight into this nihilism came during an evening with some friends and neighbors. The story is a bit long but, I think, worth it. It all began when my son expressed dismay at data from his AP Environmental Science text-book:
In 1900 the U.S. infant mortality rate was 165. In 2011 it was 6.1. This sharp decline was a major factor in the marked increase in U.S. average life expectancy during this period. The United States ranks first in the world in terms of health care spending per person, but 54th in terms of infant mortality rates.
(G. Miller, Scott Spoolman, Environmental Science, p. 100.)
My son didn’t want to believe that America, which he thinks is a great country, could rank so low in something as basic as infant mortality. As it happens, I knew that those numbers were wrong, so I immediately spoke up. I got as far as saying “Those numbers are wro…” when a far-Left physician in the room literally shouted me down.
“This is not political. We don’t need to hear any of that right-wing crap. You’re going to turn this in a political argument. This is science.” The other guests looked stunned.
I tried again. “I’m not talking politics. This is about statistics. You need to know that….”
Again, the Leftie physician cut me off. “Little Bookworm, don’t listen to her. She’s just going to go on with her political crap. The problem is with the U.S. medical system.”
I tried again. “Let me finish. This is a statistical problem.”
Leftie cut me off again. “No, don’t go there.”
I ignored him and went there anyway. “Stop!!!” I hollered at the top of my lungs. The room fell completely silent. I finally had my say.
“The problem with any analysis that ranks the U.S. so low when it comes to infant mortality is that different countries have different ways of determining what’s a ‘live birth’ for purposes of calculating infant mortality statistics. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that counts any baby born alive, no matter how fragile it is, as a living baby for infant mortality purposes.
“In other countries, such as Korea or places in Europe, they only count babies that are a certain size or weight as ‘live births.’ Comparing U.S. numbers with other countries’ numbers is an apples and oranges comparison unless you adjust for the differing baseline of what constitutes a live birth. The study cited in the book is garbage in-garbage out.”
The doctor wasn’t done. “You have no idea what you’re talking about. You don’t know what study the book cited.”
By now, though, I was on a roll. “It doesn’t matter which specific study the book is relying on. Any study that ranks the U.S. so low on infant mortality is based upon a flawed comparison of unequal data.
“I believe, although I’m not certain, that when the data is made comparable (either by deleting from America’s numbers those infants that wouldn’t have been counted elsewhere, or adding into the other numbers those infants pronounced DOA even if they breath or move at birth), America is one of the highest ranking countries for infant mortality.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, yes, I do. Here, read this,” I said, handing over my iPhone with the following page pulled up:
U.S. infant mortality rates (deaths of infants <1 year of age per 1,000 live births) are sometimes cited as evidence of the failings of the U.S. system of health care delivery. Universal health care, it’s argued, is why babies do better in countries with socialized medicine.
But in fact, the main factors affecting early infant survival are birth weight and prematurity. The way that these factors are reported — and how such babies are treated statistically — tells a different story than what the numbers reveal.
Low birth weight infants are not counted against the “live birth” statistics for many countries reporting low infant mortality rates.
According to the way statistics are calculated in Canada, Germany, and Austria, a premature baby weighing <500g is not considered a living child.
But in the U.S., such very low birth weight babies are considered live births. The mortality rate of such babies — considered “unsalvageable” outside of the U.S. and therefore never alive — is extraordinarily high; up to 869 per 1,000 in the first month of life alone. This skews U.S. infant mortality statistics.
Please read the whole thing for chapter and verse about the way differing measurements not unnaturally result in differing outcomes, with the U.S. being one of the few honest information brokers when it comes to infant live births and child mortality rates.
The Leftist doctor handed my phone back to me after only an instant, sneering that PJ Media wasn’t a reputable source because of its right-wing bona fides. He wouldn’t wait for me to find other cites (and there are many) noting the different “live birth” calculations from one country to another. Heck, even our own Left-leaning CDC (believe me, I know some of the doctors who ended up there) acknowledges that different ways of determining a “live birth” affect statistical rankings.
I’d finally had my say, so I turned the floor over to the Leftie doctor. He immediately told my son that the reason the U.S. ranks so terribly is because we don’t give poor people medical care. If only we had a medical system that provided full access to poor people, we’d be just as good as those other countries. And of course we’d also need to stop teen pregnancies and control our drug addicted people. Interestingly enough, when I doubled back and check my son’s textbook, it was eerily the same:
Three factors have helped to keep the U.S. infant mortality rate higher than it could be: (1) the generally inadequate health care for poor women during pregnancy and for their babies after birth, (2) drug addiction among pregnant women, and (3) a high teenage pregnancy rate.
(G. Miller, Scott Spoolman, Environmental Science, p. 100.)
And then the Leftist added that one other thing that was needed to reveal the nihilism behind the numbers.
“The other thing that’s a problem with America,” he told my son, saying something even the text-book hadn’t contemplated, “is that in other countries they terminate problem pregnancies more often.” I was so taken aback, I said nothing, and nobody else in the room seemed to understand what the doctor had just said.
What this Leftist essentially said was this: “Our infant mortality numbers would compare better to numbers from other parts of the world if we’d just killed the babies first, rather than waiting for them to die — and that would be a good thing.”
The doctor has the makings of the ultimate government bureaucrat: No matter what, the numbers have to be correct. And if we as a nation have to cull a few thousand or hundred thousand babies to protect ourselves from the statistical humiliation of fragile babies dying soon after birth, so be it.
Incidentally, the conflation between poor people and teen pregnancies, on the one hand, versus rich people and the absence of teen pregnancies, on the other hand, also hides this same nihilistic fascination with European-style health care numbers. To prove my point, let me say that, here in Marin, or at least in the wealthier parts of Marin, there are no teen pregnancies.
The complete absence of teen pregnancies is not because our teens practice abstinence. They don’t. Many of them have been going at it like rabbits since elementary school.
Indeed, I distinctly remember the elementary school psychologist telling a parent meeting that he was seeing the same problems amongst children that he’d seen throughout his career, things such as drug use, alcohol use, and pregnancy. The difference in the last decade or so is that all these problems are starting to happen with fifth graders (i.e., 10 year olds), not kids 13 and above.
And yet, despite the youthful sex and the apparent pregnancies, there are no pregnant teens in Marin. The only conclusion one can draw is that every one of those pregnant girls is whisked off to the doctor for a little Dusting and Cleaning to remove what can only be an embarrassment for affluent, educated people who are not going to let their little girls be “punished with a baby.” Our statistics are good because, as has been the case for most of the 20th and all of the 21st centuries, the upper middle class can always afford to destroy the evidence.
Oh, and one more thing about poor people and health care. As I pointed out a long time ago, thanks to my unusual insights into very poor communities, I know that making insurance available to the uber-poor is not the same thing as their being insured.
Health care involves a lot more than just nominally having a doctor assigned to one. The more varied a nation’s citizens, whether culturally, racially, or economically, the more varied the approaches to and outcomes from health care will be. Amongst many of the poorest, for example, health care, no matter how affordable, is an inconvenience, even a burden. Why go to all the effort to enroll in a program when you can go to the ER for free on an as needed basis?
One of the most distinguishing factors of the very poor is that their lives are incredibly chaotic. It requires organization to get birth control and, if one becomes pregnant, to get prenatal care, take vitamins, eat well, and go for check-ups.
Even the best healthcare system in the world cannot right all lives — unless it becomes a police system that mandates pregnancy tests on all, rounds up the pregnant ones, and brings them in. So far as I know, the only nation that’s implemented mandatory testing followed by round-ups is China, and it did it, not to save the babies, but to kill them.
Here’s a rule of thumb: When a government starts rounding up people, no matter its stated goals, there will never be a good outcome for the individual citizens who find themselves trapped in that net.
Oh, and what about Obamacare, which was going to be different? Hah! Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article explaining the implosion (half of the taxpayer-funded co-ops are out of business and the others are in varying stages of dying), before reaching this conclusion:
How have things changed under ObamaCare? Wealthy Americans continue to have health insurance, albeit at a higher price. But they can afford it. Many middle-class Americans are paying higher premiums they can hardly afford. And then millions more low-income Americans have heavily subsidized insurance or Medicaid coverage.
However, millions of other Americans who enjoyed good individual insurance before ObamaCare have found themselves forced out of affordable plans, with their new premiums rising rapidly. Other middle- and working-class Americans who were uninsured are still uninsured and paying the penalty or claiming an exemption. That isn’t affordable care. In many cases, it isn’t care at all.
All of which brings me back to my point about the nihilism driving Leftists’ passionate urge to share the same health care metrics as those nations around the world that have already socialized their health care. At this point, with fewer middle class people having insurance (and they’re the ones who really use it), we’re going to have to act hard and fast if we want to retain parity with the 53 countries that allegedly rank higher than we do on those infant mortality statistics. I suspect that, in their race to get to the top of the WHO data charts, America’s Leftists would embrace a plan to round up pregnant women, to test fetal viability and, if that fetus isn’t going to look good on the statistical charts, to get rid of that darn fetus before it embarrasses America before the world.