This 2006 column by David Hogberg, Ph.D points out rather effectively how statistics are being used to elicit emotions rather than encourage rational debate our in today's national health care conversation.
Two commonly cited stats by those who don't like our flawed health care system (and it is flawed) are life expectance and infant mortality rates.
"...Life expectancy and infant mortality are widely used as measures of a health care system because doing so serves an ideological agenda of greater government involvement in health care. However, these measures are useless for trying to determine the effectiveness of a health care system. Even some advocates of government-run health care acknowledge this. For example, Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic states 'those statistics are pretty crude measures'..."
The first problem is that life expectancy tells us nothing about ACTUAL patient/health care provider interaction:
"...open any newspaper and, chances are, there are stories about people who die 'in their sleep,' in a car accident or of some medical ailment before an ambulance ever arrives. If an individual dies with no interaction with the health care system, then his death tells us little about the quality of a health care system. Yet all such deaths are computed into the life expectancy statistic..."
And, because it involves babies which naturally evokes a visceral reaction, claiming that the U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates is a deliberately misleading tactic:
"...infant mortality tells us a lot less about a health care system than one might think. The main problem is inconsistent measurement across nations. The United Nations Statistics Division, which collects data on infant mortality, stipulates that an infant, once it is removed from its mother and then 'breathes or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles... is considered live-born regardless of gestational age.' While the U.S. follows that definition, many other nations do not..." (bold added)
Consider Switerland in that light:
"...in Switzerland 'an infant must be at least 30 centimeters long at birth to be counted as living.' This excludes many of the most vulnerable infants from Switzerland's infant mortality measure..."
And, of course, everyone's poster child (both good and bad) for nationalized healthcare, Canada:
"...Canada counts births to Canadians living in the U.S., but not Americans living in Canada. In short, many nations count births that are in no way an indication of the efficacy of their own health care systems."