Canadians with cystic fibrosis live 10 years longer than their US counterparts, and health insurance is likely a big reason, new research suggests. The death rate in Canada was 44% lower than among Americans on Medicare and Medicaid, and 77% lower than Americans with no insurance, the New York Times reports. But among Americans with private health insurance, there was no difference in death rates. Canada has universal health care coverage. "It seems people with no insurance have the worst outcomes compared to Canadians, lead researcher Dr. Anne L. Stephenson tells the Times. "That was the largest difference seen," Cystic fibrosis is a progressive genetic disorder that causes lung infections and eventual respiratory failure. Median life span of patients in Canada is 50.9 years, versus 40.6 in the US, per the CBC.
Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers examined the medical records of nearly 6,000 Canadians and 45,500 Americans suffering from CF between 1990 and 2013. They found the overall death rate in Canada was 34% lower than in the US. Lung transplants can extend life, and Canadians were more likely to receive new lungs at a rate of 10.3% compared with 6.5% in the US. Diet also was credited with a spike in longevity, with Canada recommending a high-fat diet rich in cheese, fish, and nuts for cystic fibrosis sufferers since the 1970s, a decade ahead of the US. The findings show the need to stengthen Medicare and Medicaid programs "that provide thousands of people with CF with access to care and treatments," co-author Dr. Bruce Marshall tells CNN. (Docs saved this cystic fibrosis mom by removing her lungs.)