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Ensign On Why Gun Deaths Shouldn’t Be Factored Into Survival Rates: ‘We Like Our Guns In The United States’

By Amanda Terkel on September 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

"Ensign On Why Gun Deaths Shouldn’t Be Factored Into Survival Rates: ‘We Like Our Guns In The United States’"

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Today in the Senate Finance Committee markup of health care legislation, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) tried to make the case that the U.S. system is the best in the world and bristled at data that the country lags in halting preventable deaths compared to other industrialized nations. Ensign argued that those comparisons are unfair because they include deaths from auto accidents and gun violence, which are unique “cultural factors”:

ENSIGN: When you take into account cultural factors — the fact that we drive cars a lot more than any other country; we are much more mobile.

If you take out accidental deaths due to car accidents, and you take out gun deaths — because we like our guns in the United States and there are a lot more gun deaths in the United States — you take out those two things, you adjust those, and we actually better in terms of survival rates.

Watch it:

Basically, Ensign is proud of U.S. “cultural factors” that, as he admits, kill thousands of Americans each year. Instead of trying to improve the health care system to better address injuries from cars and guns, Ensign would like to just wipe them off the books and ignore them because they’re so unique to America.

As Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) responded, anyone can “rack and stack” the figures all they want, but the bottom line is that “other countries that do have universal care and do a much better job of controlling costs than we do, on metric after metric, finish ahead of us.”

The United States health care system isn’t going to take care of everyone except gunshot and automobile collision victims, so it’s unfair to exclude such data. Comapred with Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, the United States ranks last in all dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives. The United States currently ranks 50th out of 224 nations in life expectancy, with an average life span of 78.1 years, according to 2009 estimates from the CIA World Factbook.

Transcript:

ENSIGN: The first one you said on preventative deaths — Are you aware on that if you take out gun accidents and auto accidents, the United States actually is better than those other countries?

CONRAD: You can rack and stack –

ENSIGN: Auto accidents don’t have anything to do with health care. I mean, we’re just a much more mobile society. On the preventative deaths, if you take out auto accidents — because we drive our cars a lot more, they do public transportation — and so you have to compare health care system with health care system.

If you compare cancer rates, survival rates after five years, cardiovascular disease after five years, the United States does better than Europe.

CONRAD: We do very well.

ENSIGN: We do better than any of the countries that you pointed out.

CONRAD: Well, I can you this: I’d go back to the statistics that have been generated by lots of organizations on quality outcomes, and other countries that do have universal care and do a much better job of controlling costs than we do, on metric after metric, finish ahead of us. And I’d just direct you to the T.R. Reid book which is loaded with analysis from objective observers as to quality outcomes. And those countries, much lower costs than we do as a share of GDP, high quality outcomes — whether we’re first in a category or someone else is first — nonetheless, high quality outcomes in those countries, at much lower costs.

ENSIGN: I just think we should be fair when we’re comparing statistics.

CONRAD: And universal coverage.

ENSIGN: I just think we should be fair when we’re comparing statistics.

CONRAD: I’m always for fairness. [...]

ENSIGN: We hear all the time about — Sen. Conrad made the comparisons, and I made the argument earlier. He was talking about preventable deaths. We hear that they have the same kinds, or even better, results — longevity and things like that. When you take into account cultural factors — the fact that we drive cars a lot more than any other country; we are much more mobile.

If you take out accidental deaths due to car accidents, and you take out gun deaths — because we like our guns in the United States and there are a lot more gun-deaths in the United States — you take out those two things, you adjust those, and we actually better in terms of survival rates.

Update

BarbinMD sarcastically adds, “Now if all of the victims of those gun and auto accidents would just stop whining for medical care…”

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