Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Why We Must Occupy Healthcare

Total U.S. healthcare spending. 1960 to 2007. ...

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by  at

Why do we need to occupy healthcare?  Why are we here, on this website, calling for change?  We are so often told that America has the best healthcare system in the world.  If that were so, then there would be no need to change anything.  We could continue running things as we currently are, and all would be well …

Except that we do not have the best healthcare system in the world.  And we do need to change our current dysfunctional system.

When I make this statement, naysayers usually point out that America is the destination of choice for people all over the world who come here for care of their complicated medical problems.  Advanced cancer, for example — the US is apparently the place to be if you need high tech, high-intensity care.  Another argument is that patients come here to jump the line to get hip surgery or heart surgery that would require a much longer wait in their original country… although it is not often that this claim is supported with evidence that the procedure in question could not have waited.

So: I have staked a position, one that is contrary to the common wisdom.  I have made the claim that American healthcare is not the best in the world.  It is now necessary to defend this position:

  • American healthcare is not #1 in the world.  In this World Health Organization (WHO) analysis, the US ranks 37th.  We place just behind Costa Rica.  Other nations that outrank us: Dominica, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, Greece, Colombia, and Morocco.  Just below us: Slovenia, Cuba, Brunei, New Zealand.  Essentially every developed nation in the Western Hemisphere performs better than we do.
  • It’s worse than it looks. As this analysis shows, we are 39th in infant mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality, and 42nd for adult male mortality and some of the US’s quality measures have not increased as much as other nations’.
  • We rank last among seven developed Western-style democracies in US healthcare performance (graphic here).  We ranked 7th out of seven in efficiency, equity and “long, healthy, productive lives” 6th in quality care, and tied for 6th in access.  This last category (access) is ironic, given that many of the arguments against reforming the US healthcare system focus on the potential loss of patients’ access to their physician; it appears this access is not as robust as we might believe.
  • Our healthcare spending per capita is 50% greater than the next highest nation’s, and our healthcare spending in the US is increasing faster than most other nations’, and the % of national GDP spent on healthcare in the US is the highest in the world (reference here).
  • According to this just-released report from the Commonwealth Fund, the US scored 64 out of 100 points and lagged behind other developed nations.  You can see the short version of the report here.
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November 16, 2011 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | ,

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