Blumenthal: Falling U.S. Life Expectancy an ‘Indictment of the American Health Care System’

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<p>Placing much of the blame for recent declines in average U.S. life expectancy on “the way the U.S. health care system functions,” Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, M.D., says the nation needs fundamental change, including “reforming our pharmaceutical markets and making good health insurance available to all Americans.”</p><p>In an op-ed published today in STAT, Blumenthal discusses new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that average life expectancy at birth fell in 2016 by 0.1 years, to 78.6, after a similar drop in 2015. In 25 other developed countries, life expectancy in 2015 was 81.8 years.</p>
<p>Blumenthal says the opioid epidemic is only part of the story. America’s lack of a strong social safety net plays a big role, but a malfunctioning health care system looms large as well.</p>
<p>One problem is the high profitability of drugs in the U.S., which has led to “sky-high and skyrocketing drug prices” and the use of “aggressive marketing” tactics by drug companies. Another is our health insurance coverage. A decline in U.S. life expectancy at age 65 highlights that even Medicare, as valuable as it is, “provides far less protection against the cost of illness, and far less access to services, than do most other Western countries,” Blumenthal writes.</p> Read more