Thursday, June 19, 2014

163.8 - Outrage of the Week: US worst in health care

Outrage of the Week: US worst in health care

Now for our other feature regular feature, it's the Outrage of the Week.

It seems we have a streak going: Over the past 10 years, The Commonwealth Fund, which promotes improved health care, has issued five reports ranking western, industrialized nations on the quality of their health-care systems. Its most recent report, involving 11 industrialized nations, was released on June 16.

And for the fifth consecutive time, the US has been ranked dead last.

Factors included quality, access, efficiency and equity of health care. There were a total of 11 measures. While the US didn't rank at the bottom in every area, it did rank lowest overall, including cost, efficiency, equity, and the overall health of its citizens. In fact, the US ranked no higher than third on any measure and that was on the one we most usually pride ourselves on: the "effectiveness" of care, that is, how good is the care available. The claim "we have the best health care in the world" is simply no longer true, assuming it ever was.

At the same time, in something that will come as no surprise, the US was far and away the most costly in terms of health care, leading to financial barriers. For example, more than a third of US adults reported skipping a recommended test or treatment or not filling a prescription because of cost.

Other barriers and problems included a relative shortage of primary care physicians - forty percent of US adults who went to an emergency room said they could've been treated by a regular doctor if one had been available - lack of access to primary care, especially for the poor; high infant mortality; inordinate levels of mortality from conditions that could have been controlled, such as high blood pressure; and lower healthy life expectancy at age 60.

It doesn't have to be this way, of course: The UK was ranked first among the eleven nations, a significant improvement over the years - because as the report notes, the UK diagnosed its health care system’s problems and addressed them, something we continually fail to do and no, Obamacare is not an adequate response. Not nearly.

Besides the US, the countries surveyed were Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

Bottom line: We pay the most and get the least benefit any many of us still can't afford or even have access to adequate health care. And we are the worst - for the fifth time in a row. And that is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

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