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Kathleen Sibelius' Bogus Claim About U.S. Health Care: 'Like a Developing Country


Politico fact checks.

Politico calls out Kathleen Sibelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, for a bogus remark she made about the American health care system earlier today:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says patient outcomes in the United States are like those in “a developing country” – and that they’ll stay that way if the health care reform law if repealed.

“The delivery system changes are what will affect underlying costs, and that impacts everybody,” Sebelius said Thursday. “We pay 2 1/2 times what anybody else pays in the world, and our care outcomes look like we're in a developing country.”

The United States actually ranks well above developing countries on multiple health indicators, coming in right above the European Union on infant mortality and slightly below Portugal on life expectancy, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The United States does, however, regularly pay much more for common medical procedures than other developed nations. Prices for everything from the delivery of a baby to the replacement of a hip in the United States are more than double the costs in countries like Canada and Germany, according to the International Federation of Health Plans' annual survey of medical costs.

For a more thorough takedown of Sibelius' general view--a view that is unfairly critical of our health care system--check out this article on the ignored facts of American health care by scholar Scott Atlas. Atlas is a professor at the Stanford University Medical Center.

He writes:

Medical Care in the United States has been loudly derided as inferior in comparison to health care systems in the rest of the developed world in highly publicized rankings, most notably the World Health Organization’s World Health Report comparing health care in almost two hundred nations....

The reality, from analysis of facts, is that American health care is superior. This inescapable conclusion derives from actual data, not opinion. The world’s leading journals are filled with studies demonstrating the superiority of American medical care to care found in other countries with systems more heavily controlled by government bodies....

It may shock many Americans that the same health systems held up as models by those interested in overhauling America’s are held in very poor regard by the very people who live under them.

Much of the urgency for reform was pressed on the American people by distorting the problems with the system and blatantly ignoring the facts that point to the excellence, and indeed the superiority, of American medical care. Americans enjoy unrivalled access to the most advanced medical care in the world, and important facts—data published in leading peer-reviewed journals—point to the superiority of America’s health care.

For an analysis of the facts and data, check out the full essay here.

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