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PolitiFact: Romney says Americans pay more for health care but die sooner

The statement

"The lifespan of the average American is less than that of people in nations that spend far less (on health care). . . . To put it bluntly, we spend more and die sooner."

Mitt Romney in the book No Apology

The ruling

In his new book, No Apology, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney devotes a chapter to health care policy — a topic that animated his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

Romney passed a health care overhaul that was designed to get his state as close to universal coverage as possible.

While he does not support President Barack Obama's health care proposal, he does agree in his book that the U.S. health care system has problems.

"The lifespan of the average American is less than that of people in nations that spend far less" on health care, Romney wrote, adding, "To put it bluntly, we spend more and die sooner."

The first place we looked was the statistical archive of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group that represents 30 advanced, industrialized nations, mostly in Europe, Asia and North America. Scholars consider OECD figures to be among the most reliable for international comparisons on health care.

First, we'll look at life expectancy — the number of years someone born can expect to live. The OECD's most recent figures, for either 2005 or 2006 (the year varies by country), show that the United States ranks 24th — well under the average level for the 30 nations studied.

Specifically, life expectancy in the United States was 77.8 years. (Japan was tops with 82.4 years in 2006.)

Now, we'll look at health care expenditures. There are two ways to measure this — by expenditures per capita, or by expenditures as a percentage of GDP. However you measure it, we're No. 1 — by a mile.

Using the first measure, the OECD reports that the United States spent $7,290 on health care per capita in 2007. The only two other countries where per capita health care expenditures exceeded even $4,000 were Norway and Switzerland.

Using the second measure, the United States spent more than 15 percent of GDP on health care in 2006, according to the OECD. Only Switzerland and France exceeded 11 percent.

However you measure it, Americans "spend more and die sooner," as Romney put it. We rate his statement True.

PolitiFact staff writer Louis Jacobson. This ruling has been edited for print. For the full ruling — and others — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Romney says Americans pay more for health care but die sooner 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 10:08pm]
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