US health care system ranks dead lastNews added by Benefits Pro on June 17, 2014

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By Kathryn Mayer

Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks dead last in the quality of its health care system when compared with 10 other western, industrialized nations, according to new analysis out Monday.

It’s the fifth consecutive time the United States has ranked last by reports ranking health care by the Commonwealth Fund. While other countries compared in the analysis have improved over the last decade, the U.S. has not, keeping with its lowest performance, while also spending far more on health care costs per person than any other country.

The United States spent $8,508 per person on health care in 2011, compared with $3,406 in the United Kingdom, which ranked first overall. It’s also significantly higher than Norway, who spent the second most on health care, at $5,669.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that despite our significant investment in health care, the U.S. has continued to lag behind other countries,” said the report’s lead author Karen Davis, a health researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Other countries that were ranked in the study include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.

America’s ranking is “dragged down substantially by deficiencies in access to primary care and inequities and inefficiencies in our health care system,” researchers said.

The report found that the U.S. ranked last on measures such as infant mortality, preventable deaths, access to care based on affordability, efficiency and equity.

Specifically, the report found:
  • The U.S. ranks last on every measure of cost-related access. More than one-third (37 percent) of U.S. adults reported forgoing a recommended test, treatment or follow-up care because of cost.

  • The U.S ranks last in efficiency, due to low marks on the time and dollars spent dealing with insurance administration, lack of communication among health care providers and duplicative medical testing. Forty percent of U.S. adults who had visited an emergency room said they could have been treated by a regular doctor, had one been available; that’s more than double the rate of patients in the U.K. (16 percent).

  • About four of 10 adults with below-average incomes in the U.S. reported a medical problem but didn't visit a doctor in the past year because of costs, compared with less than one of 10 in the U.K., Sweden, Canada, and Norway.
Data for the 2014 report was collected before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, so that the effects of the law may help boost America’s ranking in coming years, researchers said.

“The U.S. performance on insurance coverage and access to care should begin to improve, particularly for low-income Americans,” Davis said. “[PPACA is] expanding the availability and quality of primary care, which should help all Americans have better care and better health outcomes at lower cost.”

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