U.S. scores dead last again in healthcare study

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:48pm EDT

A patient waits in the hallway for a room to open up in the emergency room at a hospital in Houston, Texas, July 27, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

A patient waits in the hallway for a room to open up in the emergency room at a hospital in Houston, Texas, July 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans spend twice as much as residents of other developed countries on healthcare, but get lower quality, less efficiency and have the least equitable system, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The United States ranked last when compared to six other countries -- Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, the Commonwealth Fund report found.

"As an American it just bothers me that with all of our know-how, all of our wealth, that we are not assuring that people who need healthcare can get it," Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Previous reports by the nonprofit fund, which conducts research into healthcare performance and promotes changes in the U.S. system, have been heavily used by policymakers and politicians pressing for healthcare reform.

Davis said she hoped health reform legislation passed in March would lead to improvements.

The current report uses data from nationally representative patient and physician surveys in seven countries in 2007, 2008, and 2009. It is available here

In 2007, health spending was $7,290 per person in the United States, more than double that of any other country in the survey.

Australians spent $3,357, Canadians $3,895, Germans $3,588, the Netherlands $3,837 and Britons spent $2,992 per capita on health in 2007. New Zealand spent the least at $2,454.

This is a big rise from the Fund's last similar survey, in 2007, which found Americans spent $6,697 per capita on healthcare in 2005, or 16 percent of gross domestic product.

"We rank last on safety and do poorly on several dimensions of quality," Schoen told reporters. "We do particularly poorly on going without care because of cost. And we also do surprisingly poorly on access to primary care and after-hours care."

NETHERLANDS RANKED FIRST OVERALL

The report looks at five measures of healthcare -- quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.

Britain, whose nationalized healthcare system was widely derided by opponents of U.S. healthcare reform, ranks first in quality while the Netherlands ranked first overall on all scores, the Commonwealth team found.

U.S. patients with chronic conditions were the most likely to say they gotten the wrong drug or had to wait to learn of abnormal test results.

"The findings demonstrate the need to quickly implement provisions in the new health reform law," the report reads.

Critics of reports that show Europeans or Australians are healthier than Americans point to the U.S. lifestyle as a bigger factor than healthcare. Americans have higher rates of obesity than other developed countries, for instance.

"On the other hand, the other countries have higher rates of smoking," Davis countered. And Germany, for instance, has a much older population more prone to chronic disease.

Every other system covers all its citizens, the report noted and said the U.S. system, which leaves 46 million Americans or 15 percent of the population without health insurance, is the most unfair.

"The lower the performance score for equity, the lower the performance on other measures. This suggests that, when a country fails to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, it also fails to meet the needs of the average citizen," the report reads.

(Editing by Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (232)
msruth wrote:
WHAT???? We have amazing health care AND access to it. Once our heath care is nationalized in a few years this will be a big change for everyone. Get ready for rations and waiting in line.

Patients come in droves from other countries for our great medical care. Texas put a cap on litigation against unreasonable lawsuits and our health care here is great. Is this article part of another Obama tactic to justify his takeover of health care?

BTW the majority of Americans DID NOT WANT the bill that was rammed down our throats. The government did such a great job with Medicare so now they’ll do the same for everyone else. NO THANKS!

Jun 23, 2010 11:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
yooperguy wrote:
The US has more health care millionaires and billionaires than any other country, which proves that:

WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WE’RE NUMBER ONE!

Jun 23, 2010 11:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bola wrote:
The fact that we rank LAST on safety alone should be enough to convince people that the healthcare system here is simply not good enough, even though we outspend everyone else. We’ve only made the first step to improve access…now let’s deal with quality of care, for everyone.

Jun 23, 2010 1:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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