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We're Last! Again! U.S. Health Care Ranks Poorly

The latest look at the U.S. health care system compared to other rich countries shows — yet again — that the United States comes in dead last.
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The latest look at the U.S. health care system compared to other rich countries shows — yet again — that the United States comes in dead last.

Americans spend far more per person on medical care, yet are less healthy than people in 10 other countries. The system is less fair than systems in other rich countries and it’s far less efficient, ranking last of 11 nations, the Commonwealth Fund report reads.

The nonprofit Commonwealth Fund has been publishing its report — based on data from the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and its own research — for a decade.

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“Among the 11 nations studied in this report — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions,” the report reads.

“Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity."

The embarrassing reports have been an impetus for health reform in the U.S. including the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Before the issue became a divisive political debate, both Republicans and Democrats agreed strongly on the need for health reform.

Some politicians have held up other countries’ health systems as examples of what they don’t want for the U.S., but the report finds countries with nationalized medical systems outperform the U.S. on all the measures.

“On indicators of efficiency, the U.S. ranks last among the 11 countries, with the U.K. and Sweden ranking first and second, respectively,” the report reads.

Americans aren’t living any longer, either. “The U.S. and U.K. had much higher death rates in 2007 from conditions amenable to medical care than some of the other countries, e.g., rates 25 percent to 50 percent higher than Australia and Sweden. Overall, France, Sweden, and Switzerland rank highest on healthy lives,” the report reads.

“The U.S. ranks a clear last on measures of equity. Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling a prescription or skipping doses when needed because of costs.”

The Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, seeks to fix this by making private health insurance and Medicaid far more widely available.