Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of America's astronomically priced health care is that it's not even helping keep Americans healthy. Over the past decade, the Commonwealth Fund has studied the health care systems of the top industrialized nations (like Australia, France, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom, to name a few). Every year, the U.S. comes in last place to these other countries.
Why does the U.S. falter? Much of its poor scoring is due to the fact that the U.S. doesn't offer universal health coverage, so a lot of Americans live without health care. The U.S. also is docked for inefficiency; it spends too much on medical care; its emergency room usage is too high and there's a lot of duplicative medical testing in the system.
And then there's actual health. Shockingly, the U.S. has the lowest life expectancy, the highest infant mortality rate and the highest percentage of its people over age 65 with two or more chronic diseases among the top industrialized nations [sources: The Commonwealth Fund].
On the plus side, the U.S. excels in cancer care. Its cancer mortality rates are much lower than they are in other countries. The other bright spot is wait times to see doctors, which are also much lower. There is also greater use of expensive technologies like MRI machines — which could be considered a plus or a minus.
Another consideration: The U.S. spends relatively little on social services like housing and food assistance, which some posit would be one way to keep the population healthier, and consequently, health care costs down [source: The Commonwealth Fund].
Author's Note: 10 Questions in the Health Care Cost Debate
Well, this was a depressing article to research and write! I guess it's not that shocking. I certainly know how expensive health care is in the U.S. And while I'm fortunate to be insured, I know plenty of people who aren't. The most sobering aspect is the lack of well-managed, quality care. Sure, there's lots of good health care in the U.S. when you think of the high-tech instruments and medical devices we have, or you read about intricate operations being performed, such as separating conjoined twins.
But I also know how doctors in my HMO are under pressure to give patients only 10 or 15 minutes of their time before moving on to the next patient. I've self-diagnosed my own injuries and illnesses with far more accuracy than many a physician due to such speed sessions. Just the other day, my elderly mother had a simple hernia surgery, then contracted a dangerous bacterial illness from hospital staff. When she was sent for diagnostic testing, the wrong test was performed and my mother was given an incorrect prescription, which caused her bacterial illness to worsen. She could have died. Is this really the best we can do, America?
More Great Links
- Austin, Daniel. "Why medical debt — and bankruptcy — are growing problems." Medical Press. Jan. 28, 2015. (April 27, 2016) http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-01-medical-debt-bankruptcy-problems.html
- Cannon, Michael. "Should Everyone Be Required to Have Health Insurance?" The Wall Street Journal. Jan. 23, 2012. (April 26, 2016) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204124204577152842650354880
- Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook." (April 28, 2016) https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html
- CNN. "World's largest economies." Feb. 11, 2016. (April 20, 2016) http://money.cnn.com/news/economy/world_economies_gdp/
- Consumer Reports. "Why is health care so expensive?" November 2014. (April 19, 2016) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/11/it-is-time-to-get-mad-about-the-outrageous-cost-of-health-care/index.htm
- eHealth. "Obamacare Made Simple." (April 26, 2016) https://www.ehealthinsurance.com/obamacare
- Epstein, Lita. "6 Reasons Healthcare Is So Expensive in the U.S." Investopedia. (April 20, 2016) http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/080615/6-reasons-healthcare-so-expensive-us.asp
- Kessler, Glenn. "President Obama's claim that 'Obamacare' has helped hold down health-care costs." The Washington Post. Nov. 15, 2013. (April 22, 2016) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2013/11/15/president-obamas-claim-that-obamacare-has-helped-hold-down-health-care-costs/
- Lamontagne, Christina. "NerdWallet Health Finds Medical Bankruptcy Accounts for Majority of Personal Bankruptcies." March 26, 2014. (April 27, 2016) https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/medical-bankruptcy/
- Mark Farrah Associates. "Enrollment Gains and Profit Declines for Top Health Plans." (April 22, 2016) http://www.markfarrah.com/healthcare-business-strategy/Enrollment-Gains-and-Profit-Declines-for-Top-Health-Plans.aspx
- National Council on Disability. "Appendix B. Brief History of Managed Care." 2013. (April 27, 2016) https://www.ncd.gov/publications/2013/20130315/20130513_AppendixB
- Newman, Rick. "Why Health Insurers Make Lousy Villains." U.S. News and World Report. Aug. 25, 2009 (April 28, 2016). http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/flowchart/2009/08/25/why-health-insurers-make-lousy-villains
- Norris, Louise. "Do you still need COBRA health coverage?" Health Insurance. June 6, 2015. (April 21, 2016) https://www.healthinsurance.org/obamacare/do-you-still-need-cobra-health-coverage/
- Reinhardt, Uwe. "Why single-payer health systems spark endless debate." National Center for Biotechnology Information. April 28, 2007. (April 27, 2016) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1857763/
- Roehrig, Charles. "A Brief History Of Health Spending Since 1965." Sept. 19, 2011. Health Affairs Blog. (April 20, 2016) http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/09/19/a-brief-history-of-health-spending-since-1965/
- Sanghavi, Darshak and Sarah Bleiberg. "Can Canadian-Style Healthcare Work in America? Vermont Thinks So." Brookings. Jan. 22, 2014. (April 27, 2016) http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2014/01/22-can-canadian-style-healthcare-work-vermont-sanghavi
- Stanton, Mark. "Reducing Costs in the Health Care System: Learning From What Has Been." Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. September 2002. (April 27, 2016) http://archive.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/costs/costria/costria.html
- Statistica. "Global top pharmaceutical companies based on net income margin in 2014*." (April 22, 2016) http://www.statista.com/statistics/314648/leading-global-pharmaceutical-companies-by-net-margin/
- The Commonwealth Fund. "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally." June 16, 2014. (April 28, 2016) http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror
- The Commonwealth Fund. "U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective." Oct. 8, 2015. (April 28, 2016) http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective
- The Henry L. Kaiser Family Foundation. "2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey." Sept. 22, 2015. (April 21, 2016) http://kff.org/health-costs/report/2015-employer-health-benefits-survey/
- The Henry L. Kaiser Family Foundation. "Assessing the Effects of the Economy on the Recent Slowdown in Health Spending." April 22, 2013. (April 22, 2016) http://kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/assessing-the-effects-of-the-economy-on-the-recent-slowdown-in-health-spending-2/
- The Washington Post. "The history of health care spending in 7 graphs." Jan. 9, 2012. (April 20, 2016) https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-history-of-health-care-spending-in-7-graphs/2012/01/09/gIQAFlCCmP_gallery.html
- Thompson, Derek. "Why Is American Health Care So Ridiculously Expensive?" The Atlantic. March 27, 2013. (April 20, 2016) http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/03/why-is-american-health-care-so-ridiculously-expensive/274425/
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Benefits of the Affordable Care Act for Americans." June 20, 2013. (April 22, 2016) http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts-and-features/key-features-of-aca/benefits-of-the-affordable-care-act-for-americans/index.html
- World Health Organization. "Pharmaceutical Industry." (April 22, 2016) http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story073/en/
HowStuffWorks examines a study showing that female politicians less likely to be corrupt than male politicians.