New York Times Questions Quality of U.S. Health Care
A "growing body of evidence" indicates that the U.S. is not a "leader in providing good medical care" but a "laggard," a New York Times editorial states.
According to the editorial, a comparison of the U.S. and other industrialized nations in several important areas of health care finds that:
- "All other major industrialized nations provide universal health coverage" -- most with "comprehensive benefit packages with no cost sharing by the patients" -- but the U.S. "to its shame" has 45 million uninsured residents and millions of residents with inadequate coverage;
- U.S. residents receive "prompter attention" than those in most other nations, but "even Americans with above-average incomes find it more difficult than their counterparts abroad to get care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency room";
- The U.S. "ranks dead last on almost all measures of equity," with the "greatest disparity in the quality of care given to richer and poorer citizens";
- The U.S. ranks "near the bottom in healthy life expectancy at age 60" and 15th among 19 nations in deaths that would not have resulted "if treated with timely and effective care";
- The U.S. ranks "first in providing the 'right care' for a given condition" and high for preventive care but performs "poorly in coordinating the care of chronically ill patients, in protecting the safety of patients and in meeting their needs and preferences";
- The U.S. in a recent comparison of five nations "had the best survival rate for breast cancer, second best for cervical cancer and childhood leukemia, worst for kidney transplants, and almost-worst for liver transplants and colorectal cancer";
- U.S. residents "hold surprisingly negative views of their health care system," and "American attitudes stand out as the most negative" in a recent comparison of five nations; and
- The U.S. health care system -- despite "our vaunted prowess in computers, software and the Internet" -- is "still operating in the dark ages of paper records and handwritten scrawls," with many U.S. physicians "years behind doctors in other advanced nations in adopting electronic medical records or prescribing medications electronically."
The editorial states, "With health care emerging as a major issue in the presidential campaign and in Congress, it will be important to get beyond empty boasts that this country has 'the best health care system in the world' and turn instead to fixing its very real defects," adding, "The world's most powerful economy should be able to provide a health care system that really is the best" (New York Times, 8/12). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.