A New Study Finds the U.S. Healthcare System Ranks Dead Last Among the World’s Richest Countries

A sobering new report from the Commonwealth Fund found that the United States healthcare system ranks dead last in an analysis of the world’s 11 wealthiest nations. This is despite the fact that the U.S. spends the most of its gross domestic product on healthcare.

The analysis provides real statistics to something many Americans have long felt to be true: the U.S. healthcare system is not working. The study analyzed reports from thousands of patients and doctors in each country and utilized data from both the World Health Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation. It considered 71 healthcare performance measures broadly grouped into five different categories: access to care, the care process, administrative efficiency, equity and health care outcomes.

The 11 countries surveyed are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Norway, the Netherlands and Australia ranked the highest.

The U.S. came in last overall and ranked last in four of the five categories: access to care, administrative efficiency, equity and outcomes. The U.S. came in second in the fifth category, the actual care process. In other words, the study suggests that American doctors and nurses are good at their jobs, but sorting through the labyrinthine system of getting to those doctors and nurses is dramatically hobbling their ability to do good.

The U.S. spends 17 percent of its GDP on healthcare, more than any of the other countries surveyed.

Several significant factors stood out in the report. For example, half of all lower income Americans said they couldn’t afford healthcare, while a quarter of high income Americans said the same. For comparison, just 12 percent of low income residents of the United Kingdom said they couldn’t afford healthcare. The U.S. also has the highest income mortality rate of the country’s surveyed.

“If healthcare were an Olympic sport, the U.S. might not qualify in a competition with other high-income nations,” said Eric Schneider, the lead author behind the report and senior vice president for policy and research at the Commonwealth Fund.

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Schneider told Changing America that the biggest factors in the U.S. ranking are a lack of universal coverage, unequal access to good healthcare and a lack of social services for children and adults in the workforce.

“The U.S. has two health care systems,” Schneider explains. “For Americans with the means and insurance to have a regular doctor and reported experiences with their day-to-day care are relatively good, but for those who lack access, the consequences are stark.”

This is the seventh such report the Commonwealth Fund has released since 2004. The U.S. has ranked last each time.

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