Get ready for more heated debate about health care: A new study says the U.S. spends twice as much as six other industrialized nations on care, but gets the worst results. The U.S. health system, which cost $7,290 per person in 2007, ranked "last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives," according to the report by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private foundation focused on health. The Netherlands, where the universal health care system spends $3,837 per person annually, had the best care. Does the U.S. really have the worst health system, or is the study biased in favor of socialized medicine?
There's no denying America lags behind: "Years ago, the World Health Organization came out with a ranking of health systems that placed the US 37th," says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. And while there's been much controversy over that ranking, it's pointless to refute the Commonwealth Fund's findings. This isn't a broadside from some outsider — the ratings come from our own patients and doctors. And, "here, too, the U.S. underperforms."
"U.S. health-care system: Still bad"
This study is biased in favor of socialized systems: Worldwide health-care comparisons are "apples and oranges," says Sue Lani Madsen in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The costs of socialized systems would be higher if they offered as broad a range of care as we have in the U.S. ("You can't buy what's not available"). And poor grades from American patients may be a measure of high expectations rather than low-quality care.
"Health care spending: No such thing as non-biased"
Face it. Our system's the worst, but there's hope yet: "Pretty much no matter how you measure it, our health care system stinks," says Julie Rovner at NPR. But there's hope yet. The winners in the Netherlands don't have the sort of government-run, socialized system that's so widely derided. They achieve "universal coverage with an individual insurance mandate, much like the one recently passed by the U.S. Congress."
"U.S. spends the most on health care, yet gets least"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Why charity can't solve society's deepest problems
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
Subscribe to the Week