US health system ranks last compared to other
By Jocelyne Zablit
--- - The US health care system ranks last among other major
rich countries for quality, access and efficiency, according to
two studies released Tuesday by a health care think tank.
The studies by the Commonwealth Fund found that the United
States, which has the most expensive health system in the world,
underperforms consistently relative to other countries and
differs most notably in the fact that Americans have no
universal health insurance coverage.
"The United States stands out as the only nation in these
studies that does not ensure access to health care through
universal coverage and promotion of a 'medical home' for
patients," said Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis.
"Our failure to ensure health insurance for all and encourage
stable, long-term ties between physicians and patients shows in
our poor performance on measures of quality, access, efficiency,
equity, and health outcomes."
In "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the
Comparative Performance of American Health Care", the study
focused on interviews with physicians and patients in Australia,
Britain, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United States who
were asked to speak about their experiences and views on their
The US ranked last in most areas, including access to health
care, patient safety, timeliness of care, efficiency and equity.
Americans were also last in terms of whether they had a regular
"The US spends twice what the average industrialized country
spends on health care but we're clearly not getting value for
the money," Davis told AFP.
She also noted that 45 million Americans, or 15 percent of the
US population, have no health insurance, which contributes to
the country's medical woes.
The United States is also far behind in adopting modern health
information technology, which translates into spiralling costs
and poor care.
"We pride ourselves on being advanced on so many areas of
technology but it's not the case on health information
technology," Davis said. "Other countries have just moved
Britain got the top score in overall ranking among the countries
in the study, followed by Germany. New Zealand and Australia
tied for third followed by Canada and the United States.
The second study delves into why health costs in the United
States are so much higher than in eight other countries of the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development:
Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the
Netherlands and New Zealand.
The study, "Multinational Comparisons of Health Systems Data,"
found that even though the US spends the most on publicly and
privately financed health insurance, its citizens had the most
potential years of life lost due to circulatory and respiratory
diseases as well as diabetes.
"This study blows a lot of myths about the US health system,"
Davis said. "We spend three times what the average country
spends on a day of hospital care and we also spend twice what
the average country spends on prescription medication."
Health care is likely to be a prominent issue in the 2008 US
presidential elections with various candidates already promising
to tackle rising costs and the burden placed on big business to
provide health insurance.
Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse.
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