Keep Metro Detroit a health tourism destination

“People might be surprised to know that we have the best health care in the world,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano after a State of the County address touting Metro Detroit health systems as an attraction for so-called health tourism.

“We just need to do a better job of marketing.”

Actually, the world already knows that the U.S. has the world’s best health care. It is Ficano’s political peers in Washington who have panned U.S. health care as second rate and in need of an extreme makeover.

Today, Detroit is a destination for foreigners — some 50,000 Canadians cross the border for treatment every year — desperately seeking specialists for everything from cancer to joint replacement.

But as the U.S. moves toward Obamacare, modeled on universal care systems abroad, fewer U.S. doctors will be less able to serve foreign customers, much less American customers.

“I fear (for Detroiters’ health care) access because more and more people in the medical field are going to revolt against a system that tries to control them,” Detroit native and world-renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson tells me.

Ficano is correct — the U.S. is No. 1 for health care. So why does the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development rank the U.S. just 28th in life expectancy?

Because the U.S. is the murder capital of the developed world. Strip out fatal injuries from OECD tables and the U.S. vaults to the top. Wealth equals health. It also equals unparalleled access. For example, the U.S. has the highest breast cancer survival rate according to the Centers for Disease Control, 9 percent higher than Canada. From prostate cancer (184 percent higher) to colon cancer mortality among men (10 percent higher), Canadians suffer worse cancer survival rates than their neighbors.

Why? Because universal care does not mean universal access to treatment. In nationally-regulated systems from Canada to Germany, government regulation and health reimbursement creates doctor shortages and reduced treatment. This means “waits of six months or more for elective surgeries were reported to occur ‘very often’ or ‘often’ by 26-57 percent of executives” in non-U.S. systems, according to Harvard professor Robert Blendon. “Only 1 percent of U.S. hospitals reported this.”

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