WASHINGTON People living in countries with government-run healthcare systems like Sweden and Canada are far more confident than Americans that their families can get good, affordable care, according to a 22-nation survey released on Thursday.
The Ipsos/Reuters online poll found 75 percent of Swedes and nearly 70 percent of Canadians thought it would be fairly easy to get treatment if a relative became ill, compared to just 51 percent of Americans.
Conducted while the U.S. Congress fought over sweeping changes to expand access to health insurance, the November 2009 to January 2010 survey found Americans were divided over their access to healthcare. The U.S. health reforms became law last month.
"Even at this very divisive time, half of the (U.S.) public was basically satisfied with their healthcare" said Darrell Bricker of Ipsos, a global survey-based market research company. "Americans are basically split on this."
The United States spends more than any other nation on healthcare -- roughly 16 percent of its economy -- but still has higher rates of infant mortality, diabetes and other illnesses than other rich countries.
Still, not all countries with a government hand in healthcare reported greater satisfaction, according to the poll, which surveyed more than 23,000 people worldwide.
Just 55 percent of residents in Britain, which has nationalized healthcare, expressed confidence while 45 percent of those in Germany thought it would be easy to access treatment.
In Japan, which provides universal medical care, just 15 percent said they thought a relative could easily get affordable, quality care. The Asian nation boasts a high life expectancy but is grappling with health costs as the elderly make up more than 40 percent of the population.
Other countries that ranked low in satisfaction included Hungary, Russia and South Korea -- all of which showed confidence in good care at less than 30 percent.
The survey also found that neighboring giants India and China had vastly different experiences, with 64 percent of Indians citing confidence, putting them fifth behind the Netherlands. In China, 34 percent said they thought they could get good care.
Across all countries, women, adults younger than 55, the poor and the less-educated reported lower satisfaction with their access to healthcare, the survey found.
Ipsos surveyed 23,351 adults in 22 nations that account for 75 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
Countries polled were: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and the United States.
Respondents were recruited and screened, then results were balanced to reflect the country's demographics, according to Ipsos. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Chris Wilson)