A new Harvard study shows that life expectancy in the U.S. has risen for both men and women. Per the WSJ:
Men nationally saw life expectancy rise 3.1 years to 74.1 years … Women nationally saw life expectancy rise by 1.28 years from 1983 to 1999, to about 79.6 years.
But that’s not what you’ll be reading about during the next few days. Instead, “progressive” policy wonks and most of the media will focus on this:
Some regions of the U.S. have seen life-expectancy rates stagnate or even decline, particularly for women …
The universal coverage crowd will no doubt claim that this proves life expectancy is adversely affected by the uninsured problem. The authors, however, have pre-empted that talking point:
Researchers said they don’t think poor access to health care can be blamed for all of the declines in life expectancy. “Even if everyone were insured, we’d still be seeing most of the pattern that we’re seeing here,” Dr. Murray said.
The inequality fetishists will also jump on this. They will claim that the declines are somehow correlated with race and income. But the authors have also dispensed with that:
The declines weren’t strongly associated with race or income, and instead appeared to cluster primarily in certain regions …
This study will probably provide talking points for other groups as well. It will be interesting to watch how the various players in the health care reform debate twist the data to support their positions.
Merrill Goozner is out front with an early misrepresentation of the study. It’s unclear if he is being deliberately deceptive or if he was just too lazy to read it. Either way, the title of his post, As Longevity Declines in Poor Areas, is explicitly contradicted by the study’s authors.