USA vs. HK #2: Health Care

I don’t mean to spoil the suspense, but this is an easy one.  HK has one of the healthiest populations in the world, easily beating the US in basically all measures of health.  HK is #2 in the world in life expectancy, and the US is #46.  HK has the 4th lowest infant mortality rate in the world.  The US has the 41st lowest.  And keep in mind that the diet here is not exactly what I would call healthy (though I’ll grant that it’s probably better than the average American diet.)  And HK air is fairly toxic (more on that soon).  So there are confounding factors on both sides to be sure, I could cite other indicators, but I won’t bore people with anymore numbers unless someone actually disagrees with me here.  We can get into the details in the comments section.

It’s true that rich people in the US have excellent health care, but that’s not the standard I’m using.  If I were a rich person, I might see things differently.  But I’m not, so I don’t.  If rich people want to comment and tell me why I wasn’t good enough to deserve access to basic health care in the US, feel free.  To me, fairness is an important concern when we’re talking about who gets to live and who dies.  As bad as the US is on important measures like infant mortality, it fails the fairness test even more miserably.

For the first time in my adult life, I don’t have to worry about an injury or illness forcing me into bankruptcy.  Health care isn’t free here, but it would cost around 12 US dollars for me to go to the emergency room.

The major objection Americans are likely to have to the health care systems in HK, Europe or anywhere in the developed world is the waiting.  It’s true that people in HK often have to wait to see a doctor if they have a non-emergency illness and want to go to a public hospital.  But doctors are the ones who decide who gets health care first, and they decide based on medical need, not cost or insurance company decree.  Private hospitals here function like private hospitals in the US, no crazy long waiting or anything, and excellent quality of care…except everything is roughly one-tenth the price.

But this has already been way too much discussion for such an easy contest.  The winner is HK.

Keep in mind, I’m writing this on November 19th, 2009.  It’s possible that things could improve in the US.  But I’m highly skeptical that the Democrats will be able to pass a bill that cuts the blood-sucking insurance company middle-men out of the system.  That’s what would need to happen if the US health care system is going to make this contest competitive.  I don’t see that happening any time soon.

The score so far: USA 1, HK 1.

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