But the present belongs to us geezers. Thanks to a system sharply slanted toward the elderly we have developed an odd actuarial situation.
But a funny thing happens to Americans’ life expectancy when they age. The U.S. mortality rate is the highest of the 17 nations until Americans hit 50 and the second-highest until they hit 70. Then our mortality ranking precipitously shifts: By the time American seniors hit 80, they have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.The absolute conviction that the US medical system is the envy of the world is a conceit supportable for only a few of us. It is also inconsistent with almost every measure of health outcomes. It needs to be changed. Period.
What gives? Have seniors discovered the Fountain of Youth? Do U.S. geriatricians outpace all our other physicians?
Part of the answer is Darwinian: Those Americans who have been less able to access reliable medical care, maintain good diets and live in neighborhoods that are not prey to gun violence have disproportionately died off before age 80. That isn’t natural selection but social selection — the survival of the economically fittest in a nation that rations longevity by wealth.
But the larger part of the answer is that at age 65, Americans enter a health-care system that ceases to be exceptional when compared with the systems in the other 16 nations studied. They leave behind the private provision of medical coverage, forsake the genius of the market and avail themselves of universal medical insurance. For the first time, they are beneficiaries of the same kind of social policy that their counterparts in other lands enjoy. And presto, change-o: Their life expectancy catches up with and eventually surpasses those of the French, Germans, Britons and Canadians. [More]
As Jan and other colleagues begin to enroll in Medicare, I can tell you for a fact, that not one - even the most rabid free-market, anti-government evangelists - is less than thrilled. I think we had doped out the above trend long ago. "We got ours" is the motto of my generation.