A new Commonwealth Fund report looks at how the United States stacks up against other countries on things like access to doctors and quality of care. It pulls from three separate surveys conducted over the past three years: a 2011 survey of sicker patients, a 2012 survey of doctors and a 2013 survey of adults over 18. It also uses health outcome data from the OECD and World Health Organization. This means it captures the experience of the medical system from the people who use it a lot, those who use it a little and the doctors treating them.
The American health care system came in last both in the overall rankings, which pull together data on 11 specific measures of success for a health care system. This includes metrics like how easily residents can access health care, if that medical care is affordable and if its effective. There was no measure where the United States came in first place — our best ranking was coming in third in the effectiveness of our medicine.
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The U.S. ranking reflects poor scores on measures of healthy lives — “mortality amenable to medical care,” infant mortality and healthy life expectancy at age 60. The highest U.S. score was a 3, for “effective care.” The USA also outranked its peers on preventive care and on speedy access to specialists. But the nation fares poorly on “access to needed services” and on getting prompt attention from primary care physicians. … What do the healthier cousins have that the United States does not? Universal health care, the Commonwealth Fund points out. Nonetheless, Canada limped just ahead of its southern neighbor in the survey. … Though the Affordable Care Act “is increasing the number of Americans with coverage and improving access to care,” the latest survey relied on data from before the law was implemented fully. Still, the ACA “will further encourage the efficient organization and delivery of health care, as well as investment in important preventive and population health measures”.