USA Celebrates Amazing 17 Year Streak Of Having Worst/Most Expensive Health Care In The World
A new report from the Commonwealth Fund has found that out of all the rich nations on earth, the United States of America has the worst healthcare and pays the most for it. This is, however, not new information. The United States has ranked dead last in these reports since 2004.
The study compared Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States on 71 metrics in five categories — access to care, care process, administrative efficiency, equity and health care outcomes. In overall rankings, the US ranked dead last. And it was not even sort of close.
GraphSource: Commonwealth Fund
Norway, Australia and the Netherlands took the top three spots, respectively.
The areas where the US did the absolute worst of all the countries were access to care, administrative efficiency, equity and health care outcomes. So all but one. That one was "care process" — where we actually ranked second.
Along with the U.K. and Sweden, the U.S. achieves higher performance on the preventive care subdomain, which includes rates of mammography screening and influenza vaccination as well as the percentage of adults who talked with their provider about nutrition, smoking, and alcohol use. New Zealand and the U.S. perform best on the safe care subdomain, with higher reported use of computerized alerts and routine review of medications. Still, in all countries, more than 10 percent of adults report experiencing medical or medication mistakes in their care.
We spend 17 percent of our GDP on healthcare and in return, we have the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality rates, and the worst health outcomes of any country studied. Part of the reason our health care is so expensive is that we also rank last in administrative efficiency — meaning that we spend a stupid amount of time and money on paperwork.
According to the researchers, the US's poor performance can be tied to four distinguishing features.
1) they provide for universal coverage and remove cost barriers;
2) they invest in primary care systems to ensure that high-value services are equitably available in all communities to all people;
3) they reduce administrative burdens that divert time, efforts, and spending from health improvement efforts; and
4) they invest in social services, especially for children and working-age adults.
But we all know all that stuff, don't we? We've known it for a long, long time and we know what we could do to improve it and we do not want to do those things. Or rather, not enough of us do. Our health care system is deliberately designed to be this way, and the fact is, most Americans are perfectly happy with it until something bad happens to them, personally. This is what they are into and they get very mad when anyone tries to convince them otherwise.
We're absolutely incredible at justifying the outrageous costs of our health care. Medications have to be ridiculously expensive, we say, because we have to fund research and development (even though that money actually just goes to make pharma CEOs rich). Health care has to be expensive, we say, because if doctors don't make an absurd amount of money, no one will become one. Medical school is outrageously expensive and no one is going to pay for that if they don't get to make tons of money afterwards, often just to pay those student loans back. There is, of course, a solution for that, but we don't want it.
We have to have private insurance companies because some people like the insurance they have and it's better to have a "choice" between companies that may or may not cover things rather than socialized health care that will cover everything. And if we didn't have private insurance companies, then what would all those people whose job it is to tell us "Sorry, we can't cover that" do for a living? Hmm?
The best we're ever going to get are empty gestures towards a "public option" — which, quite importantly, would do jack shit to reduce those administrative costs.
And you know what? This is all actually fine. You can't force people to have nice things if they don't want them. The most important thing, at the end of the day, is customer satisfaction — and it's clear that most Americans would not trade our very stupid and expensive system for any other system in the world. It doesn't matter that socialized medicine is factually less expensive, it matters that they believe it's way more expensive than what we have now. They will defend this shit with their last breath, which unfortunately will come much earlier for them than it will for people in those countries with better health care.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse