Dutch health system rated best, U.S. worst - polls

NEW YORK, July 7 (Reuters Life! ) - Americans are the least satisfied with their health care system, while the Dutch system is rated the best, according to new research.

Polls about health care in 10 developed countries by Harris Interactive revealed a range of opinions about what works and what doesn't.

In the United States a third of Americans believe their system needs to be completely overhauled, while a further 50 percent feel that fundamental changes need to be made.

"Given that all countries other than the U.S. have universal health care systems in place, this may invite questions on why the U.S. remains the only wealthy, industrialized country without such a system," Harris president George Terhanian told Reuters.

In the Netherlands, where health care is financed by mandatory health insurance, 42 percent of people think their system works well and needs only minor changes.

And only nine percent of the Dutch think a complete overhaul is necessary, compared to 12 percent in Canada and Spain, 15 percent Britain and France, 17 percent in Germany and New Zealand, 18 percent in Australia and 20 percent in Italy, according to the polls of more than 1,000 people in each country.

The U.S. model, widely criticized on its combination of private insurance and publicly-funded programs, spends more on health care than any other nation worldwide but ranks low on overall quality of care, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

France's health system, based on compulsory national insurance, was ranked best in the world by the WHO in 2000, while Britain's National Health Service, the world's largest publicly funded system, was in 18th place.

The Harris comparison of the national surveys showed that 70 percent of the French and 59 percent of Britons think their health services are "the envy of the world."

Nearly 70 percent of Germans, a majority of whom receive coverage from state-funded insurance plans, feel that access to healthcare depends on a patient's ability to pay for it.

But at least 47 percent of those surveyed in all countries think there are some good things in their systems but they need to be improved.

"It is by no means clear through these surveys that universal health care systems represent the so-called magic pill," said Terhanian.

Reporting by Claire Sibonney; Editing by Patricia Reaney; Reuters Messaging:; +416-941-8142