Supporters of government medicine often quote a statistic that shows life expectancy in the US lower than most European nations with government-run health systems. But what they never mention is that this ranking is mainly due to lifestyle and social factors that have nothing to do with health care. Removing just two factors - death from accidents (mainly car crashes) and murders - vaults the US to the top of the list. Here, via Carpe Diem, are the raw and corrected numbers:
The Mark Perry post linked above has links in turn to the study itself and its methodology. You may have seen stats that say that, using raw data, the US has the best life expectancy once you reach age 65. This is just another way of correcting out higher accident and murder rates, as these tend to affect younger folks.
My guess is that if one corrected for other lifestyle issues and environmental factors that increase the incidence rates of things like heart disease in the US (discussion here), then the US lead would be even more stark. If one takes the left at its word that the US starts in a health care "hole" with poor diet, obesity, environmental problems, etc., then the US medical care system, despite starting in a hole, is able to still raise US life expectancies above other countries.
One big reason is cancer survival rates, which dwarf those in Europe. It is at such leading and expensive edges of medicine where one might expect the US system to get much better results, and it does.
But it is often said that this is only for the rich -- that the poor in the US don't benefit. Well, this is a difficult proposition to test, as income mobility (which is very real in this country no matter how much the left denies it) makes correlation of income (say by quartile) and life expectancy impossible. During a person's lifetime, they might inhabit several different quartiles.
A proxy I think the left might accept is one of race. If one assumes that African-Americans are among the systematically disenfranchised in the health care system, then it should show up in their stats. The results are something that gives ammunition to both sides of the debate.
Clearly, there are two tiers, as African Americans have poorer cancer survival rates than white Americans. But, for many types of cancer, African-Americans have higher survival rates than they would in many European countries.
This is the endless do-loop of inequality debates. Is inequality OK if it results the folks lower on the totem pole being better off than in a more egalitarian society. For me, the answer seems obvious. Absolute well-being seems far more meaningful than relative well-being. But I am not necessarily in the strong majority on this. I had a professor that used to poll his class -- he would ask them if they would prefer a society where the gap between rich and poor was narrower but where the poor were, on an absolute basis, worse off than in the less equal society. He reported the vote almost always split about 50/50. (of course the is a purely utilitarian formulation of the question. Adding in individual liberties issues makes the question far more stark, as to achieve an egalitarian society one must give up both wealth and liberty.)