Data but not information


An article on the National Geographic Blog, The Cost of Care, includes the following statement which is accompanied by the graph below.  

The United States spends more on medical care per person than any country, yet life expectancy is shorter than in most other developed nations and many developing ones. Lack of health insurance is a factor in life span and contributes to an estimated 45,000 deaths a year.

While the graph illustrates a one-to-one relationship, the statement itself infers otherwise, indicating that life expectancy includes those not covered by insurance thus skewing the figures (that is, what is the life expectancy of those covered by insurance).  No doubt there are other factors. For example, the high price of legal insurance paid by doctors; there could be a system efficiency factor; it could be life style; it could be life-risk related; it could be genetic; it could be some combination. Moving to Japan won’t necessarily be better if the other missing variable(s) are not identified, understood and addressed.

This chart is presented in the middle of a national debate over private vs. public insurance systems and the comparisons presented are largely against public systems–all of which are less expensive.  Unfortunately insufficient data is presented to inform the reader of the cause of the high cost eliminating the possibility of solving the problem. The message driven by the chart cannot be substantiated and thus it is misleading and if it is misleading with intent it must therefore be propaganda. 

However, if you’re American or Mexican you can certainly compare your own premiums against the average.


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