We Are Last in Health Care Among High-Income Countries

In a recent commentary (EC Schneider, D Squires. NEJM 2017; 377: 901—4) explains why the U.S. Health Care System is last among high-income countries.

Overall, the U.S. “begins with a challenge: its population is sicker and has higher mortality than those of other high-income countries.”  The U.S. has a rate of death from “conditions that can be managed and treated effectively (referred to as ‘mortality amenable to health care’) is far higher than in other high-income countries.

Four areas that have to be addressed to help U.S. move from last to first:

  • U.S. must confront lack of access to health care. The top-ranked countries offer universal insurance coverage with minimal out-of-pocket costs for preventive and primary care.
  • Underinvestment in primary care. In other countries, a higher percentage of “the professional workforce is dedicated to primary care than to specialty care.”
  • Administrative inefficiency. “Both patients and professionals In the United States are baffled by the complexity of obtaining care and paying for it.”
  • Disparities in the delivery of care. This may be mediated in part by a less robust social safety net than other high-income countries.  “Social spending [for] stable housing, educational opportunities, nutrition, and transportation may reduce the demand for” many health care services.

My take: It makes me mad that our health care system performs so poorly compared to other countries.

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