The U.S. health care system, again, ranks last among 11 high-income countries — the seventh such time it trailed its peers since a leading, independent nonprofit conducted its first study in 2004.
The Commonwealth Fund, in its latest published research, says it examined 71 different measures to study health systems in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The U.S. performed worst among these countries, based on surveys conducted in each country and administrative data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization, the Washington Post reported. Eric Schneider, the lead author behind the findings and Fund senior vice president for policy and research, told the newspaper:
“We’ve set up a system where we spend quite a bit of money on health care, but we have significant financial barriers, which tend to dissuade people from getting care.”
The Commonwealth Fund looked at four key areas in health care in wealthy nations, the Washington Post reported: access to care, the care process, administrative efficiency, equity, and health-care outcomes.
This country was a major outlier, both in the huge sums it spends on health care and the lagging outcomes its people struggle with. The Commonwealth Fund found, as it has before, that Americans struggle with the affordability and access of health care, especially compared with peers in other wealthy nations. A huge factor in this disparity is the lack of national health insurance. The United States also compares poorly because of the giant economic disparities and significant diversity of its people, especially compared with other wealth nations.
The poor in America get hit hard, suffering worse health than comparable individuals in other wealthy countries. The United States also rates poorly in dealing with preventable deaths and illness.
This country, however, exceeds its peers in creating costly bureaucracy and administrative inefficiencies in its health care system, the Commonwealth Fund found in its research, conducted mostly before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic (but with its top-line findings likely little swayed by it).
Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Washington Post the fund’s latest findings offered “a pretty stark indictment of the United States.”
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also their struggles to access and afford safe, efficient, and excellent health care. This has become an ordeal due to the skyrocketing cost, complexity, and uncertainty of treatments and prescription medications, too many of which turn out to be dangerous drugs.
As Americans, we’re spending close to $4 trillion annually now on health care, while seeing weak outcomes. Medical costs keep rising, saddling too many patients with unbearable debt that results in bankruptcy and family heartache. Yes, this country has some of the world’s best medicine — but not for all. Health care, in the wealthiest nation in the world, must be a right, not a privilege. Doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers should earn a fair living for their hard work. But we have a lot of work to do, so our health care is outstanding and our spending for it is reasonable without sky-high prices pulled out of the thin air and with negative consequences for us all.