Health Systems Performance and the Politics of Cancer Survival


  • Michael K. Gusmano


Five-year survival rates for many forms of cancer are higher in the United States than other countries in the world. There is some evidence that this reflects effective treatment of the disease, but there is equally compelling evidence that, even if better care is available in the United States, it is not equally accessible to all citizens. Despite the difficulty of interpreting cancer survival statistics, U.S. health policy debates offer a story that is simplistic. Cancer statistics are used to claim that the U.S. health care system is the “best in the world” and that efforts to evaluate the value of technology will compromise the quality of care available to patients with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The argument that newer and more expensive medical technology always leads to better outcomes makes it difficult to conduct a reasonable public discourse about the merits of further public investment.