As I mentioned a few days ago, the advocates of government-run health care love to quote World Health Organization statistics. They are particularly fond of referencing “World Health Report 2000,” which purports to rank the health care systems of 191 nations. 

Glen Whitman of the Cato Institute has written an excellent analysis of the methods used by the WHO to produce that report, and he concludes that it should not be taken seriously as an objective measure of how health care systems perform relative to one another:

The WHO rankings depend crucially on a number of underlying assumptions—-some of them logically incoherent, some characterized by substantial uncertainty, and some rooted in ideological beliefs and values that not everyone shares.

Among the most ideologically-loaded components of the ranking system is that which measures ”financial fairness.” The WHO defines ”fairness” in terms of how much a given government subsidizes health care, which renders single-payer arguments based on these rankings utterly meaningless:

To use the existing WHO ranking to justify more government involvement in health care … is therefore to engage in circular reasoning because the rankings are designed in a manner that favors greater government involvement.

Not that such considerations matter to single-payer advocates. As I have pointed out before, these people don’t care about the integrity of their data. Contemporary “progressives” base their views less on facts than on the outward appearance of piety.

Which is why they cling desperately to the faux facts of ”World Health Report 2000.”  Its pseudo-statistics provide single-payer advocates with much needed cover, allowing them to pose as thinking people whose opinions are based on actual data.

[HT Econlog]

Comments 7

  1. Stuart Browning wrote:

    David – Thanks for covering this. However, I think most single-payer types will still cling blindly to the notion that Morocco has a better health care system than the U.S.

    Posted 29 Feb 2008 at 9:29 am
  2. Catron wrote:

    I think you’re probably right, Stuart. Cognitive dissonance is a way of life for our “progressive” friends.

    Posted 29 Feb 2008 at 10:39 am
  3. Stuart Browning wrote:

    I can’t help adding that #7 rated Spain’s medical system (according to WHO) doesn’t fare so well in a story out just this morning on CNN’s website:


    It seems as if their much-vaunted system’s public hospitals provide rather “outdated” care. Ah well … at least it provides a mechanism to redistribute wealth.

    Posted 29 Feb 2008 at 10:57 am
  4. Ed Sodaro MD wrote:

    More on Stuart Browning’s comments on WHO #7 rated Spain:

    My Spanish friend from NY was vis1ting her grandmother in Orense, Spain. Grandma needed a pacemaker. My friend had to translate the (English) instructions on the simple (non-defibrillator) pacemaker literature to the quacks at the government health center into Spanish AS THEY INSERTED THE DEVICE over 2 1/2 excruciating hours, with trial and error. Sterile field? A joke.

    With typical Spanish humor, my friend says that she has changed her will: It now reads that if she ever gets sick in Spain, she is to be shot first.

    The WHO ratings appear totally bogus.

    Posted 29 Feb 2008 at 7:00 pm
  5. Ed Sodaro MD wrote:

    “I think most single-payer types will still cling blindly to the notion that Morocco has a better health care system than the U.S.”


    Posted 29 Feb 2008 at 7:03 pm
  6. Marc Brown wrote:

    The 2000 report is eight years old – coming soon from Catron news broadcasting, ‘Americans first on the moon – exclusive’.

    Posted 01 Mar 2008 at 9:14 am
  7. Stuart Browning wrote:

    Hmm …. 8 years old – yet quoted on a daily basis in the media and by government health care advocates.

    What’s your point, Brown?

    Posted 01 Mar 2008 at 10:15 am

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