Report: U.S. health care among worst in world
A study released this week shows the U.S. ranked dead last compared to 11 countries; the United Kingdom was first
By Amanda Cuda
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The United States health care system is among the most expensive in the world, but that doesn't mean it's good.
A study from the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, shows that when the health systems of 11 countries were compared, the U.S. finished at the bottom of the list, despite spending more per capita in a single year than any of the other nations studied.
The study examined the countries -- which included the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and Canada, among others -- to see how their health systems ranked in such key areas as overall quality, access to care, efficiency, health outcomes and equity of care. The health systems of all 11 countries were ranked from best to worst. The U.S. ranked dead last, just behind Canada. The United Kingdom ranked first.
Many local health care experts and advocates weren't surprised by the findings, including Summer McGee, associate professor of public management at the University of New Haven.
"It is scary how much we in the U.S. are willing to pay to have the least-efficient, least-fair and least-healthy lives for our citizens," she said.
The Commonwealth Fund pulled data for the report from a variety of sources, including the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The fund has released previous reports comparing care in the U.S. with that in other countries -- in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010 -- and the U.S. system has consistently ranked last.
That's what frustrates Elizabeth M.S. Krause, vice president of policy and communications for the Connecticut Health Foundation, which works to give the poor and people of color better access to care.
"To people like me who get a regular peek behind the curtain, the latest finding is not a surprise, though each time I see these studies, it is sobering that our positioning does not seem to be improving," she said.
The report does point out that the Affordable Care Act -- the sweeping health care reform legislation also known as Obamacare -- has increased the number of Americans with health coverage and increased access to care. However, the data included in this year's report were gathered before the legislation fully took effect.
In addition to ranking last overall among the nations studied, the country scored worst in many individual areas, including equity of care. The report found that Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a doctor when sick.
The U.S. also ranked last in health outcomes and efficiency. The country ranked ninth when it came to access to health care, though Americans were the most likely to go without health care because of its cost. The U.S. fared better when it came to quality of care, ranking fifth among the nations studied.
Some experts said they expect that future versions of the report will likely have more positive news for Americans.
Angela Mattie, chairwoman and associate professor of Quinnipiac University's health management and organizational leadership department, pointed out that millions of Americans, including more than 200,000 Connecticut residents, have gotten health insurance through the marketplaces constructed as part of the Affordable Care Act.
"When you have access to health insurance coverage, you're more likely to get preventive care, and maybe even care for chronic conditions," Mattie said.
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