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By Seth Stern August 25, 2008

U.S. spends more on health care, not necessarily healthier

It is a common refrain among politicians lamenting the state of America's health care system: spending more on health care doesn't necessarily make the United States a healthier country.

That's a theme repeated in the report accompanying the Democratic Party's convention platform. It claims, "We spend more on health care than any other country, but we're ranked 47th in life expectancy and 43rd in child mortality."

The first part of the statement is certainly true. The United States has spent more per capita on health care than any other country for decades, and its spending has grown faster, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis shows that in the most recent figures available, U.S. spending on health care per capita was $5,711 in 2003. The second-place finisher, Luxembourg, spends $4,611.

As for life expectancy and child mortality, the Democratic National Committee couldn't provide the source for the platform committee's statistics. But the numbers do match Census Bureau statistics that are used in the CIA's 2008 World Factbook, which shows the United States ranks 47th in life expectancy and 43rd in child mortality.

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You might see different rankings depending on where you look. The United States scores better in lists compiled by the World Health Organization or the United Nations.

That's because each of these organizations ranks countries differently. The U.S. Census Bureau includes many more places in its rankings, such as tiny territories and small chunks of countries, as the Wall Street Journal's "The Numbers Guy" blog has pointed out.

Still, no matter whose list you check, there's no denying that the United States' infant mortality rate is higher than other large industrialized countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Japan. And this is true despite the United States being the world leader in spending. We give the Democratic platform committee a True.

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U.S. spends more on health care, not necessarily healthier

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