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US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World 1063

Posted by Soulskill
from the would-you-like-fries-with-that dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Louise Radnofsky reports that a study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has found U.S. life expectancy ranks near the bottom of 17 affluent countries. The U.S. is at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Americans fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese. The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, was the lowest among the 17 countries and almost four years shorter than for Switzerland, the best-performing nation. American women's average life expectancy is 80.8 years, the second-lowest among the countries and five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy. 'The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive — it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries,' say the report's authors. The authors offered a range of possible explanations for Americans' worse health and mortality, including social inequality, limited availability of contraception for teenagers, community designs that discourage physical activity such as walking, air pollution as well as individual behaviors such as high calorie consumption. The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. 'One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home,' reads the report. 'The statistics are dramatic.'"
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US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:57AM (#42556859)

    The rest of you would be working yourself to death too if you were making $7.25/hr., had no job security or benefits, couldn't afford a hospital stay, and were afraid you would get laid off if you took a vacation. No 3-hour lunches or month-long vacations here. We WORK for a living! Even the relatively affluent can get fired or laid off at the drop of a hat in the USA.

    But don't worry. You'll learn what it's like soon enough. Greece has already started. No more free rides, fellow Athenians!

    • by comp.sci (557773) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:25AM (#42557139)
      While statistics do show that the US is uniquely productive, it certainly comes at a cost. You present this as a binary choice (Greek lifestyle VS US) whereas there are plenty of highly successful countries (think Germany or Switzerland) that work less. Most people likely can relate to this but for many white-collar jobs the number of hours worked dont correlate perfectly with productivity either.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:56AM (#42558243)

        When people are overworked, they get far less productive. Having worked at many locations in both the US and Europe (Netherlands, Germany, the UK and France) I find that American workers work too much hours-wise but are not as productive overall. In Europe people work less, but when they are at work, they are much more productive and healthy. When I lived in Holland, I rode a bicycle to work every day. When I lived in San Jose California, I was stopped by the police for trying to walk to work. They told me it was illegal to walk along the side of the road. Total insanity. I have also found that in Europe, you are surrounded by history and stimulating architecture everywhere that focuses on humanity. In America, Shopping is a religion, and town after town has all the same soul-deadening strip malls and consumer wasteland landscapes that grind you down and make you feel like just another cog in the machine. Try shopping in a typical town in France or Germany and you'll see what I mean. People are nowhere near as materialistic. I remember an American telling me once that he was a "Ford man", meaning that he would only drive Ford vehicles. This kind of thinking, where people's identities are rooted in how they consume and what brands they use is almost unheard of in Europe. People know about brands, but they don't base their identities on their consumption. I think that consumer culture and the Walmatization of America is a divisive, alienating, soul-destroying sickness in and of itself.

    • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross&yahoo,ca> on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:33AM (#42557215)

      All that is missing is the chant USA USA USA!!!

      I happen to come and live from the number one country, Switzerland. WE work for a living. You guys think you work, but you socialize quite a bit, as my many tell me that English speaker meetings run on, and on and on, and on! Our work week is 42.5 hours a week! We do not have the job protections like other European countries, though we are not quite as willy nilly in terms of firing as the US. Our's is a fine balance between the worker and the employee. Simply put to fire somebody you need a reason, other than "I don't like your face." We have private health care, but everyone is required to pay for it, and we have month long vacations. We have guns like the US, but we control them and try for the most part to make sure that bad people do not get them. Granted not always successful, but we have one the safest societies on this planet.

      So stop whining, complaining, and chanting USA, USA, USA, poking fun at others and instead figure out how to improve your own country. Simply put MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX!

      • by CyberDong (137370) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:08AM (#42557627)

        Interesting read... [wikipedia.org]

        The Swiss army has long been a militia trained and structured to rapidly respond against foreign aggression. Swiss males grow up expecting to undergo basic military training, usually at age 20 in the Rekrutenschule (German for "recruit school"), the initial boot camp, after which Swiss men remain part of the "militia" in reserve capacity until age 30 (age 34 for officers). Each such individual is required to keep his army-issued personal weapon (the 5.56x45mm Sig 550 rifle for enlisted personnel and/or the 9mm SIG-Sauer P220 semi-automatic pistol for officers, military police, medical and postal personnel) at home.

      • by terec (2797475) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:22PM (#42559321)

        Nearly a quarter of the workforce in Switzerland is foreign and, as far as the Swiss are concerned, effectively disposable. When unemployment goes up in Switzerland, the Swiss just lay off some foreign workers. Working conditions and pay are considerably worse for foreign workers, at least in my experience (I don't know whether they are supposed to be). And unlike the US, the Swiss are very efficient at keeping track of foreigners in the country (regular registration and "papers please") and presumably at getting rid of them when they are no longer needed. It's no wonder that with such a system, the Swiss themselves mostly end up with the secure, high-paying jobs.

        How do I know? I was working as a guest worker in Switzerland for a few years. Someone even accidentally made me an offer for the same kind of job I was doing, thinking I was a Swiss citizen, which gave me a better idea of the job market for Swiss citizens, and then quickly retracted it when I told them that I was not.

        Despite the differences in pay and conditions, Switzerland is still a nice country to work in for foreigners, and fortunately most Swiss are more modest and polite than you seem to be. But Switzerland doesn't have a magic solution to the problems of economic development, unless you consider using the rest of the world as a cheap and disposable labor pool a magic solution.

    • by Zalbik (308903) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:00PM (#42558309)

      You'll learn what it's like soon enough. Greece has already started.

      Except if you live in Canada. Or Sweden. Or Norway. Or actually most of the countries in that list.

      The debt [wikipedia.org] of most of those countries is significantly less than that of Greece (or the USA for that matter), yet they have a similar standard of living, free basic health care, and fairly reasonable job security.

    • by cupantae (1304123) <maroneill.gmail@com> on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:10PM (#42558443)

      Americans remind me of my sister with regards to talking about work: when it's useful in the conversation to be the hardest worker, that's who you are; when it's useful to talk about how little work you do, that's what you talk about.

      In actual fact, I believe both. Americans definitely do work more than most Europeans (except eastern Europeans). The holidays are shorter and usually involve some contact with the workplace, employer or clients. However, I have noticed that, outside of the best and worst jobs, lack of productivity seems to be a serious problem in America. Your average office worker spends a sizable portion of the day browsing the internet (correct me if I'm wrong!). Believe it or not, this does not happen in many European countries. Still, though:

      3-hour lunches or month-long vacations

      what

      On the whole, the problems you describe:

      making $7.25/hr
      no job security or benefits
      couldn't afford a hospital stay
      afraid you would get laid off if you took a vacation

      Are a result of the lack of socialism in America. Haters can fucking deal with that, because it's true. Socialist policies are generally good for 99% of the population. It's good for society, doncha know.

  • Switzerland (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:58AM (#42556865)

    Switzerland tops the list, yet the authors criticize gun availability in the US?

    • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:00AM (#42556889)

      They specifically criticise American attitudes to firearms, and not the weapons themselves:

      "widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home"

      At the risk of sounding patronising, they're saying that if you didn't insist on handing out guns like free toasters and storing them like same, you could probably be trusted with them.

      • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

        by semi-extrinsic (1997002) <asmunder&stud,ntnu,no> on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:12AM (#42557009)
        I agree, the rules for storage is where the US should introduce new legislation ASAP. Make it mandatory to keep your guns locked away, unloaded, and set up a program where for one year the government covers half the cost for anyone buying a gun locker (reasonably priced and conforming to some specification). I'd bet that the total benefit of such a program to society would be larger than the costs in a year or two.

        To provide some statistics: this paper [nih.gov] found that in the 12 US states with laws regarding safe storage of guns at that time, there were 23% fewer unintentional shooting deaths among children under 15, and this finding was statistically significant.
        • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:47AM (#42557407) Homepage Journal

          I agree, the rules for storage is where the US should introduce new legislation ASAP. Make it mandatory to keep your guns locked away, unloaded, and set up a program where for one year the government covers half the cost for anyone buying a gun locker (reasonably priced and conforming to some specification). I'd bet that the total benefit of such a program to society would be larger than the costs in a year or two.

          Any "locker" that is not a safe is a complete waste of time and money. A worthwhile one for a pistol begins around four hundred bucks. We have already shot down bans on cheap guns (i.e. "Saturday Night Specials") as being unconstitutional as they unfairly penalize the poor. This is no different.

          You know what else they have in countries with lots of guns and low gun crime? National health, a minimum wage two or more times ours, an education system which is intended to educate rather than to indoctrinate, and greater equality of wealth. Focusing on storage requirements is rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

          • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:00PM (#42559085)

            You know what else they have in countries with lots of guns and low gun crime? National health, a minimum wage two or more times ours, an education system which is intended to educate rather than to indoctrinate, and greater equality of wealth. Focusing on storage requirements is rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

            In other words... other countries have happier, healthier, more comfortable citizens with less stress and less desperation--thus less state-of-mind to kill each other?

            No, SURELY you must be wrong. ALL of our gun problems are because of violence in video games, movies, and the availability of scary-looking assault rifle (because assault rifles kill more people every year than 9mm pistols, you know!). Progressive cities like NYC, Chicago, and Washingon DC have extremely strict gun laws; they are bastions of peace and prosperity!

        • Re:Switzerland (Score:5, Interesting)

          by nbauman (624611) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:35AM (#42557995) Homepage Journal

          I'm not sure about that. This paper found that storage didn't make any difference.

          I've never understood how "storage" works. The main argument for having a gun in the home is that the gun owner can protect himself in case of home invasion. That means the gun has to be readily accessible day and night. It has to be readily accessible to your 16-year-old daughter when she's home alone. Or your 16-year-old son.

          It seems that safe storage and protection are mutually exclusive. If the gun is available to protect you and your family, it's available enough to make it easy for you and your family to commit suicide.

          http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.long [oxfordjournals.org]
          Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study
          Linda L. Dahlberg, Robin M. Ikeda and Marcie-jo Kresnow
          Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 3.4).
          The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 10.4, 95% confidence interval: 5.8, 18.9). regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

    • Re:Switzerland (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TWX (665546) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:44AM (#42557369)
      All of those military rifles in Swiss homes are there because they were earned, not bought. Just about all males go through military service, and on honorable discharge from their conscription they're essentially listed as being in the reserves and they retain their rifles.

      If you've been through the military and honorably discharged and want to own a sidearm like the one that you carried in the service, I'm a lot less worried about you than I am about any other random person. Granted, too many former US military have PTSD issues that our health system isn't addressing like it should, but even with that, we haven't seen massive numbers of mass-shootings conducted by former military personnel that were honorably discharged. In fact, there has been only one such mass-shooting in 30 years, and it was an Airman that was forcibly-honorably-discharged, who didn't want to be, who returned with weapons to shoot the military doctors that he blamed for his discharge.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @09:58AM (#42556869)

    It's already been pointed out that the reason why the United States has "high" infant mortality is that we count ALL live births as a live birth. In some European countries, if the baby dies within a few minutes or a few hours it isn't counted as a live birth and therefore isn't part of the infant mortality numbers. In one country, I don't remember which one, if the baby dies with the first WEEK, it isn't counted as a live birth. So, yes, if you manipulate the numbers and redefine "live" birth, you can end up with a low infant mortality rate. On the other hand, if you count it as a live birth if the baby draws even a single breath or twitches, then your numbers do not mean the same thing.

  • by fullback (968784) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:01AM (#42556899)

    #1 The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the largest total prison population on earth.

    #2 The United States has the highest percentage of obese people in the world.

    #3 The United States has the highest divorce rate on the globe by a wide margin.

    #4 The United States is tied with the U.K. for the most hours of television watched per person each week.

    #5 The United States has the highest rate of illegal drug use on the entire planet.

    #6 There are more car thefts in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world by far.

    #7 There are more reported rapes in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.

    #8 There are more reported murders in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.

    #9 There are more total crimes in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.

    #10 The United States also has more police officers than anywhere else in the world.

    #11 The United States spends much more on health care as a percentage of GDP than any other nation on the face of the earth.

    #12 The United States has more people on pharmaceutical drugs than any other country on the planet.

    #13 The percentage of women taking antidepressants in America is higher than in any other country in the world.

    #14 Americans have more student loan debt than anyone else in the world.

    #15 More pornography is created in the United States than anywhere else on the entire globe. Eighty nine percent is made in the U.S.A. and only 11 percent is made in the rest of the world.

    #16 The United States has the largest trade deficit in the world every single year. Between December 2000 and December 2010, the United States ran a total trade deficit of 6.1 trillion dollars with the rest of the world, and the U.S. has had a negative trade balance every single year since 1976.

    #17 The United States spends 7 times more on the military than any other nation on the planet does. In fact, U.S. military spending is greater than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined.

    #18 The United States has far more foreign military bases than any other country does.

    #19 The United States has the most complicated tax system in the entire world.

    #20 The U.S. has accumulated the biggest national debt that the world has ever seen and it is rapidly getting worse. Right now, U.S. government debt is expanding at a rate of $40,000 per second.

  • Gun? *facepalm* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:02AM (#42556905)

    Switzerland is at the top and has tremendous amounts of gun ownership. Our life expectancy is due to our crappy healthcare system and even worse access to it, high infant mortality, rampant poverty, lack of safety nets, etc. Oh and our obsession with fast food doesn't help either.

  • by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:06AM (#42556955) Homepage
    This is the kind of analysis I have been wondering about. Since most of the previous studies done in this area don't seem to try to factor thing like the large number of American fat asses or smokers or other choice items. While it appears to do a better job of trying to factor out some of the issues it doesn't look like it manages to do all of them or I might need to read it in more detail. But it looks like there is some good evidence that our health care system does really kind of suck unless you can afford the Mayo Clinic or other premier hospitals.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:45AM (#42557377)

      A proper analysis would be putting in perspective, not just giving you the numbers. They say smoking takes an average of 6 minutes off your life for each cigarette you smoke. If that's the case, living in the United States is as bad as being a pack a day smoker for 12 years. Now rather than an abstract number, people have something they can relate to: Living here is worse than smoking for your health.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:08AM (#42556975) Homepage
    Urban sprawl, no exercise, a diet loaded with sugar, salt and hormones, and the only people who can afford to see a doctor are the lawyers who just sued them for malpractice.
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:10AM (#42556985) Journal

    18,735 - suicide by firearm
    11,493 - murder by firearm
    554 - killed from accidental firearm discharge

    31,578 - accidental death from poisoning

    All of these numbers pale in comparison to this:
    108,000 - killed from adverse prescription drug reactions.

    Clearly the firearms angle is over stated.We should be banning doctors.

    • by Bigby (659157) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:20AM (#42557091)

      For those unaware with the size of the US.

      0.006% suicide by firearm
      0.0037% murder by firearm
      0.000179% death by firearm accident

      0.0102% accidental poisoning
      0.0348% prescription drug reactions

      But murder = murder. What are the murder rates by any weapon/methodology? I care if I lose my life, not by what mechanism.

    • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:59AM (#42557527)

      I'm undoing all my moderation to post this, but we need to do something about this.

      "Recently, Lazarou, Pomeranz, and Corey attempted to synthesize
      available data on fatalities from adverse drug events (excluding cases
      of medication error). To derive their estimate of 106,000 fatal
      adverse drug reactions in the United States in 1994, they drew on data
      from 16 studies of adverse drug reactions published between 1964 and
      1995. The studies cumulatively looked at 78 deaths, but only two of
      the studies had more than 10 deaths. Moreover, the 4 studies published
      after 1976 included a total of 5 deaths, compared with 73 in the 12
      earlier studies.
      Consequently, the projection of fatal adverse drug
      reactions in 1994 is based predominately on data from 20 years
      earlier
      , when the use of pharmaceuticals was quite different. In
      addition, deaths were too few to arrive at a stable mortality estimate
      -- as even a small change in the number of deaths reported in the
      studies would lead to substantial changes in the number of deaths
      extrapolated to the national population".

      Gun deaths and accidental poisonings are based on the CDC's own counts and therefore potentially underestimate the figure because of unrecorded deaths. 'Adverse effects to drugs' is based on massive extrapolation from outdated data. One fact that should have immediately rung alarm bells for you is that the CDC's definition for 'accidental poisoning' *includes* both illegal and legal drug reactions. The OP is wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • some quotes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:18AM (#42557065)
    From the article:

    The shorter life expectancy for Americans largely was attributed to high mortality for men under age 50, from car crashes, accidents and violence.

    "Our health as Americans is only partly aided by having a very good health-care system," he said. "Much of our health disadvantage comes from factors outside of the clinical system and outside of what doctors and hospitals can do."

    The authors noted that Americans who lived past age 75 had higher survival rates compared with similar countries, and Americans overall had better rates of surviving cancer and strokes.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:24AM (#42557127)
    This must be down to the corporate "death squads" who decide who will get treatment and who won't.
  • It IS the inequality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday January 11, 2013 @10:38AM (#42557271) Homepage Journal

    There's plenty of research, showing that high income inequality will lead to lower life expectancy, and not just among the poor.

    The more economically unequal a society becomes, everybody gets more sick, even the 1%.

    And it's not just physical health. There is more mental illness the more inequality grows. You know, craziness, like the kind that would make a 20 year-old kid kill his mom and 20 six and seven year-olds.

    There are so many measurements of the health of a society that degrade as income inequality grow, it's not surprising that a growing number of very wealthy people are in favor of having their own tax rates go up and the social safety net made stronger. Some are even starting to take better care of their employees at the cost of stock price (the "market" hates it when workers get paid more). Costco is an example of this. Wages go up and employees get better health care and other benefits and the financial elite say, "What a chump. What's wrong with that guy, anyway, is he some kind of fucking commie?" (If you think I'm kidding about this, check out some of the stories about Costco in the Wall Street Journal or on CNBC. The CEO's name is James Sinegal, and he's decided to earn less than $500k. Wall Street hates the dude because they're afraid he's going to start some kind of trend where bonuses go down and then they won't be able to afford that new infinity pool in their houses in St Lucia.)

  • by Specter (11099) on Friday January 11, 2013 @11:02AM (#42557555) Journal

    Link to the full 424 page paper is here [nap.edu].

    Link to the (probably paywalled) WSJ article is here [wsj.com] although the Yahoo version in the summary above appears to be exactly the same.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:54PM (#42559035) Homepage

    The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents.

    Homicide, they noted, is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24. The large majority of those homicides involve firearms.

    OK, let's do the math. Let's assume that other countries have zero violent deaths per 100,000 and have a life expectancy of 80 years. Let's assume that all 6 per 100,000 deaths in the US happen at age 15. How much does that affect our life expectancy?

    99994 * 80 = 7999520
    6 * 15 = 90
    90 + 7999520 = 7999610
    7999610 / 100,000 = 79.9961
    80 - 79.9961 = 0.0039

    The life expectancy difference between the US and the top performer is 4 years for men and 5 years for women. The maximum possible effect of gun violence according to the statistics in this report is 0.0039 of those years.

    The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns

    True enough, but it was because of their preconceived notions, not because the data in the study supports their view.

    • by FhnuZoag (875558) on Friday January 11, 2013 @02:38PM (#42560157)

      You've made a fundamental error in your calculations. They said the US has a violent death rate of 6/100k. Your calculations assume that 6/100k deaths, or in other words 0.006% of deaths are violent. That is incorrect. What you need to do is divide the violent death rate of 6/100k, by the overall US death rate of 793.8 per 100k - leading to a proportion of total deaths of 0.756%.

      Now, to apply the correct calculations, if in a population of people living to 80, 0.765% of them die at 15 instead:

      (6/793.8 ) * 15 + ((793.8-6)/793.8 ) * 80 = 79.5.

      So about 0.5 years from homicide. Gun related suicide is more often, and takes off another year or so.

      Obviously, this doesn't explain the entire difference, but it can have a significant effect.

  • U.S. vs. the world (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frontier Owner (2616587) on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:09PM (#42559195)
    Having been around the world a couple times, I can say, the food here has a couple issues. Mostly, we are served quantity over quality. Taste is replaced with salt, processed fat, and chemical enhancements. The only place that has food comparable to ours is the UK. Other places all the meals are about 1/2 or less of what you get here. You sit down at a table to eat. Soda has sugar, not chemically enhanced corn syrup. When I eat in the US, I get a headache for about 30 minutes after eating. Ive nver had that happen outside the US unless its eating fast food in the airport traveling.
  • by whitroth (9367) <whitroth AT 5-cent DOT us> on Friday January 11, 2013 @01:59PM (#42559731) Homepage

    I just skimmed a bunch of posts, and I'm wondering if more than 0.1% of you actually read any of the articles about it.

    Let's see: it noted lack of access to medical care in mostly the below-median-income (i.e, half the country), due to cost.

    But let's not create, say, a national medical system, like the UK's NHS, where they're all on salary, and so have no incentive to push all the newest, most expensive of everything, including what the drug co salesman left them samples of. No, we'd rather spend 25% to 75% or more of our medical dollars for multinational profits, as opposed to healthcare.

    Oh, that's right, there was also an article I read yesterday, about a study showing that for-profit hospitals gave, overwhelmingly, worse care than non-profit, due to cost-cutting measures like fewer staff, and less one-on-one staff/patient care.

                    mark

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