A new report from the Commonwealth Fund points out shameful inconsistencies and inadequacies in the care given in the richest nation. Here are some significant points from the report:
The U.S. health-care system is doing poorly by virtually every measure. That's the conclusion of a national report card on the U.S. health-care system, released Sept. 20. Although there are pockets of excellence, the report, commissioned by the non-profit and non-partisan Commonwealth Fund, gave the U.S. system low grades on outcomes, quality of care, access to care, and efficiency, compared to other industrialized nations or generally accepted standards of care. Bottom line: U.S. health care barely passes with an overall grade of 66 out of 100. The survey was carried out by 18 academic and private-sector health-care leaders, who rate the system on 37 different measures. The poor grade is particularly discomfiting, the researchers note, because the U.S. spends more on medicine, by far, than any other country. Approximately 16% of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) is devoted to health care, compared with 10% or less in other industrialized nations.
The U.S. ranks at the bottom among industrialized countries for life expectancy both at birth and at age 60. It is also last on infant mortality, with 7 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 2.7 in the top three countries. There are dramatic gaps within the U.S. as well, according to the study. The average disability rate for all Americans is 25% worse than the rate for the best five states alone, as is the rate of children missing 11 or more days of school. The report found that quality of care and access to care varied widely across the country, and it noted substantial gaps between national averages and pockets of excellence. The authors concluded that, if the U.S. improved and standardized health-care performance and access, approximately 100,000 to 150,000 lives could be saved annually, along with $50 billion to $100 billion a year.
Among the reports' findings:
•Only 49% of U.S. adults receive the recommended preventive and screening tests for their age and sex.
•Nationwide, preventable hospital admissions for patients with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and asthma were twice as high as the level achieved by the best performing states.
•One-third of all adults under 65 have problems paying their medical bills or have medical debt they are paying over time.
•Only 17% of U.S. doctors use electronic medical records, compared with 80% in the top three countries.
•On multiple measures across quality of care and access to care, there is a wide gap between low income and the uninsured, and those with higher incomes and insurance. On average, measures for low income and uninsured people in these areas would have to improve by one-third to close the gap.