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Jul 01

Report Ranks U.S. Last in Overall Healthcare

Heathcare, Lee's Summit Chiropractor, Preventative Care Comments Off on Report Ranks U.S. Last in Overall Healthcare
“It is disappointing, but not surprising that, despite our significant investment
in health care, the U.S. continues to lag behind other countries…”

—Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis

Spending Does Not Equal Success

US Spending on Health: A Per Capita Comparison

The Commonwealth Fund has released four reports over the last seven years and one truth has remained a constant: the U.S. continually ranks last in health among the countries in these studies. This year’s report was no different as the trends remained unchanged. The “why” for our nation’s ranking is simple: our healthcare costs more than double that of the other nations in this study and our access to care remains poor, especially among the uninsured. In effect, we are paying more money for less care and those in need of medical assistance are opting out of the medical system for financial reasons—leading to many preventable deaths due to conditions which would be readily treatable had adequate and affordable options been available. Going further, the report states, “The U.S. ranks a clear last on nearly all 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, not filling a prescription, or not seeing a dentist when needed because of costs.”

What the U.S. is Learning from the Netherlands

While not perfect, the reforms passed in 2010 will at least make strides towards providing access to care for more Americans nationwide—the effect of which is cited numerous times in the Commonwealth Fund report as a possible saving grace to America’s healthcare woes of the past. In many respects it mirrors that of the Netherlands’ own healthcare system, yet falls short at many levels. The Netherlands ranked first in the 2010 report, scoring highest for such measures as equity, safeness, effectiveness, and coordinated care. The Netherlands has a hybrid system of healthcare, blending elements of both socialized healthcare and privatized healthcare to form a cohesive system. What stands out in the Netherlands’ healthcare system is a built-in protection mechanism for insurance companies to offset financial risks they face when insuring patients with pre-existing conditions—while also covering the poor and chronically ill, providing them access to greater healthcare without the need to factor in bankruptcy when these individuals face matters of life-and-death. Insurance, in the Netherlands, is mandated to cover a defined scope of health services and anything that falls outside of that scope is covered under a government law on exceptional health costs (with these “exceptional health costs” covered by the public through taxes). The Dutch are also mandated to buy into either private insurance or health savings accounts—a similar design to what we will be seeing in the U.S. by 2014.

With a general distaste for anything deemed “socialized” in America, it seems that a hybrid system provides a possible solution for which many Americans will find at least palatable in helping to amend a broken system, meeting the world half-way on the issue of complete governmental control of healthcare. The reforms in 2010 will provide:

  • Expansion of Medicaid eligibility to those making up 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL)
  • Insurance premiums subsidies for those making up to 400% of the FPL
  • Additional incentives for businesses to provide worker health benefits
  • Measures to prevent insurance companies from denying claims based on “pre-existing conditions”, while prohibiting health insurance “caps” for healthcare spending
  • The establishment of health insurance exchanges
  • Financial support for medical research
  • And Perhaps Most Important…

  • Tax penalties for those who do not obtain health insurance (unless exempt due to low income); forcing the issue of coverage by mandating insurance

The Missing Piece

The emphasis on prevention is an interesting idea raised in the debate for how to effectively curb healthcare costs while raising the healthcare standard for Americans. Germaine to the issue is what we currently spend as a country on conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes—which together account for 70% of all deaths and 75% of all healthcare expenditures. Heart disease alone accounts for over $475 billion spent annually. Yet all of these conditions are preventable and this is why true healthcare reform must include an emphasis towards cost-cutting measures that provide real value to the people in the form of lasting health through disease prevention. Taking control of your health will not only save your family money, but prevent illness from taking root. It is our diet and our environments which provide the engines for disease growth and disease prevention and the decisions we make on a daily basis push these processes in a direction of health or disease contingent upon our actions. If we as a country simply took these necessary strides towards prevention in our own lives, to the betterment of our families and our communities, imagine the health savings we would experience as a nation!

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