U.S. ranks last on report of healthcare systems
By Steven Ross Johnson
Once again, the U.S. healthcare system ranks last among other rich Western countries, receiving low marks in quality, efficiency, access, equity and healthy lives, according to a report.
Despite having the most expensive system in the world, the U.S. health system scored lower than 10 other countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K., which ranked No. 1. The rankings were part of a comparative analysis released Monday by the Commonwealth Fund (PDF).
The U.S. fared better in quality of care, ranking fifth among countries studied and earning high marks for providing effective and patient-centered care. But the U.S. ranked last in access to affordable care—37% of U.S adults reported forgoing care because of the cost. The report also ranked the U.S. as the least efficient among its peer nations, with 40% of adults reporting that they had visited an emergency department for conditions that could have been treated by a primary-care physician.
The latest report marks the fifth time the U.S. healthcare system has ranked last among the countries included in the analysis. The result was the same in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010.
“Based on the indicators measured in the surveys, the U.S. rarely outperforms the other nations,” the report stated. “While its quality scores have improved somewhat since the last edition of the report, the U.S. is still only average on the key sub-domains of effective, safe, coordinated and patient-center care.”
U.S. health spending averaged $8,508 a person in 2011, compared with $3,406 spent in the U.K. The U.K. scored the highest overall among the countries studied, ranking first in quality, access to care, and efficiency, while ranking second in equity and 10th when it came to health outcomes, just above the U.S.
Other comparative studies have shown the U.S. falling behind other nations when it comes to getting the most out of the dollars it spends on healthcare. In a study published last December in the American Journal of Public Health, the U.S. ranked 22 in an examination of the efficiency of healthcare spending among 27 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for 1991 through 2007.
That study found that for every additional hundred dollars spent on healthcare in the U.S., it resulted in an increased life expectancy of half a month, while the same amount spent in Germany produced an increase in life expectancy of more than four months.
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