Healthcare in the U.S. has its share of problems and challenges, but somehow you've got to believe our system outperforms medical delivery in Costa Rica, Cyprus and Morocco.
The attributes of healthcare American-style are many and splendored: fancy buildings; world-class physicians; caring, well-trained nurses; state-of-the-art equipment; mind-boggling financial support.
But there are plenty of negatives: uneven quality; waste and inefficiency; an embarrassingly high number of uninsured citizens.
That said, the best hospitals and physicians in the country are also among the best in the world. Even the average hospital and physician here is a mighty cut above the international standard.
That makes it all the more incredible that the U.S. placed 37th in the recent World Health Organization ranking of 191 national health systems. France and Italy took the top two spots; Cyprus ranked 24th, Morocco 29th and Costa Rica 36th.
It sounds like some kind of ridiculous joke, although the idea of global healthcare accountability standards does have merit.
About 10% of the international economy, or $2.7 trillion, is devoted to health spending. The WHO admits there is a lack of evidence about what determines "success."
WHO's rankings are based on overall health indicators of the 191 members of the United Nations, health inequalities, system performance, and how costs and services are distributed.
But don't take the rankings too seriously. As Michael O'Hanlon, president and chief executive officer of DVI, a Jamison, Pa.-based international healthcare financial services company, says: "What I find particularly disturbing about this report is its overall assumption that healthcare is a continuous and permanent responsibility of government."
Good healthcare, according to U.N./WHO standards, means a strong government bureaucracy that will make equality-based decisions. O'Hanlon adds that before making a decision, "the bureaucracy will debate every facet of healthcare. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy will continue to grow, not unlike the U.N. itself."
Big-government healthcare in and of itself doesn't translate into a world-class system.