Studies by the Commonwealth Fund have found that the United States, which has the most expensive health system in the world, ranks last among other major rich countries for quality, access and efficiency of healthcare.
The US healthcare is consistently inferior in performance, to other countries and differs most notably in the fact that Americans have no universal health insurance coverage, according to the studies.
Says Commonwealth Fund president and American citizen, Karen Davis: The US stands out as the only nation in these studies that does not ensure access to healthcare through universal coverage and promotion of a medical home for patients.
Our failure to ensure health insurance for all and encourage stable, long-term ties between physicians and patients shows in our poor performance on measures of quality, access, efficiency, equity, and health outcomes.
In the study, the focus was on interviews with physicians and patients in Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the US who were asked to speak about their experiences and views on their health systems.
The US ranked last in most areas, including access to healthcare, patient safety, timeliness of care, efficiency and equity. Americans were also last in terms of whether they had a regular physician.
The US spends twice what the average industrialized country spends on health care but were clearly not getting value for the money, Davis opines.
Davis also noted that 15% of the US population had no health insurance, which contributed to the countrys medical woes.
The US is also far behind in adopting modern health information technology, which translates into spiraling costs and poor care, according to the researchers.
We pride ourselves on being advanced on so many areas of technology but its not the case on health information technology, Davis was quoted.
Other countries have
just moved ahead, she added.
Among other countries, Britain got the top score in overall healthcare followed by Germany. New Zealand and Australia tied for third followed by Canada and the US.
A second study delved into why health costs in the United States are so much higher than in eight other countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
The study, Multinational Comparisons of Health Systems Data, found that even though the US spends the most on publicly and privately financed health insurance; its citizens had the most potential years of life lost due to circulatory and respiratory diseases as well as diabetes.
This study blows a lot of myths about the US health system, Davis warns.
We spend three times what the average country spends on a day of hospital care and we also spend twice what the average country spends on prescription medication.
Healthcare is likely to be a prominent issue in the 2008 US presidential elections with various candidates already promising to tackle rising costs and the burden placed on big business to provide health insurance.
Per-capita health spending in the United States in 2004 was $6,102, twice that of Germany, which spent $3,005. Canada spent $3,165, New Zealand $2,083 and Australia $2,876, while Britain spent $2,546 per person.
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