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Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Study: World Does Health Care Better Than U.S.

As the Senate gets ready to debate health insurance reform, lets take a look at some of the latest data on the status quo that the GOP (and the Blue Dogs) will try to defend. A new study just published this month in Health Affairs finds the following shortcomings in the American health care system compared to ten other countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom:
  • Americans can't get non-emergency room care after hours: Only 29% of American primary care doctors and nurses report making after-hours arrangements to see patients without having to resort to the emergency room. Norway and Canada are also low on this count (38% and 43%, respectively); every other country in the survey scored 50% or better.
  • Cost is a greater barrier to care in America than anywhere else: 58% of American doctors say out-of-pocket cost "often" makes it hard for their patients to get medicine or other treatment. Norway (37%) and Italy (33%) are next on the list. Everyone else is below 30%. In Norway, only 5% of doctors report cost creating a problem for patients.
  • American insurance is a barrier to care: 48% of American doctors report "a major problem" with insurance coverage restrictions getting in the way of giving patients the medicine and treatment they need. The problem is next worst on this count in Italy (42%) and Germany (34%). Everyone else is below 20%.
  • American health care lags in information technology innovation: Only Canada has been slower than the United States in adopting electronic medical records (EMR), which have been shown to save money and save lives, not to mention catch drug addicts faking illnesses. Various forms of government health insurance have not stopped the near-universal use of EMRs in places like Sweden (94% of primary care physicians report using EMR), the U.K. (96%), Norway (97%), and the Netherlands (97%).
  • American health care lags in improving chronic care: American doctors are at or below average in using written guidelines for treatment, using care teams to increase contact times with patients, and giving patients written lists of their medications. We only slightly outperform the average in giving chronically ill patients written instructions on managing their care at home.
  • American doctors get fewer performance incentives. For all our talk about how the free market rewards good work, more doctors in socialist dystopias like Canada and the U.K. report having the chance to receive incentives for providing better health care.
Americans pay more—way more—for health care than citizens of any other country, but we aren't getting better care. America's health care system—and the GOP's staunch defense of it—doesn't make sense.

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