U.S. still lags in health care value for money

A new study from The Commonwealth Fund said the U.S. ranks last among seven national health care systems it has studied, as it has for some years now.

The USA Soccer team has proven itself to be a real value-for-money outfit.

U.S. health care, not so much.

A new study from The Commonwealth Fund said the U.S. ranks last among seven national health care systems it has studied, as it has for some years now.

"The U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, coordination, efficiency, and equity. The Netherlands ranks first," according to the report.

The Netherlands has a system of mandatory health insurance, with short-term care handled through the private market and long-term care handled by the state. Only religious objections to mandatory insurance are allowed.

Under health reform the U.S. will have also have a hybrid system, divided differently. Most people will be in a private system for all their medical costs, while the government will pick up the tab for the poor, the elderly, and veterans, remaining the largest buyer of health care in the country.

Where the pre-reform system falls short, according to the report, called Mirror, Mirror, are on measures access, patient safety, coordination, efficiency, and equity. Some of those questions are addressed by reform, others by the health IT funds offered by the 2009 stimulus.

A few months ago the report would have been a political lightning rod. The fund, established by Standard Oil heiress Anna Harkness in 1918, was a major mover behind the eventual health reform law contributing (among others) grantee David Blumenthal, now National Coordinator for Health IT.

The fund's new analysis insists money is not the problem. Americans now spend over $7,200 per year on health care, while Canadians spend under $2,500, but Canadians live longer.

Critics like the blog Nostrums insist the data is faulty, failing to take into account accidents and gun shots that have nothing to do with the health system. Other conservatives call the data flawed for how it counts infant mortality, which has a big impact on lifespan estimates.

Now that health reform is a reality, we will see whether the Commonwealth prescription works.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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