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U.S. News and Commentary



Monday
Aug312009

US healthcare vs. other countries: a few facts and figures

Senator Mike Enzi undertook a 1,100 mile trip across Wyoming to discuss the nation's health care crisis and the steps Congress can take to wrangle health care costs in America. In the weekly Republican Address on Aug. 29, Enzi (R-Wyo.) said, “According to the non-partisan and independent Congressional Budget Office, the House and Senate bills will actually drive up heath care costs. The Congressional Budget Office also says that the Democrats’ bill will significantly increase our nation's deficit.” [US gov. file photo]Comparing US healthcare to healthcare in other countries has become the pundit’s crutch—pro-socialization fans praise other countries, and conservatives say the US is best. We hear anecdotal examples of why another country is better or worse. But one study compared the US with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and England. And another data source turned up interesting facts about the French healthcare system. Research by The US Report found key differences in per capita GDP.

An analysis at Health Affairs said, “In 1999 the Commonwealth Fund convened a working group of quality measurement experts from governments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, England, and the United States, along with academic researchers and representatives of institutions involved in medical care quality measurement.4 This group examined a variety of working definitions of quality, ultimately choosing one developed by the IOM: ‘the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge.’”

One conclusion reached: “The comparisons on this initial set of quality indicators show that each country performs well in some areas and poorly in others compared with other countries. Each country could improve the quality of care.”

That is what most with common sense would conclude without a study.

The US is often criticized for the costs consumers bear. An article from Investor’s Business Daily addresses one aspect of higher costs, commenting on delivery of drugs in France: “Drugs developed in America at enormous expense do cost less in France, which decides what drugs are to be used and at what prices. American patients in effect subsidize the French, who take the same pills at half the price because American pharmaceutical companies don't want to lose the French market…French taxpayers fund a state health insurer, Assurance Maladie. Assurance Maladie has run in the red since 1989, and this year's shortfall is expected to be 9.4 billion euros ($13.5 billion) and 15 billion euros in 2010, about 10% of its budget.”

The Commonwealth Fund study did not address per capita GDP or populations. Here are figures The US Report pulled from the CIA World Factbook:

US population: 307, 212,123/per capita GDP= $48,000
•Australia population: 21,262,641/per capita GDP= $38,100
•Canada population: 33,487,208/per capita GDP= $$39,300
•New Zealand population: 4,213,418/per capita GDP= $27,900 (2008 est.)
•England population: 61,113,205/per capita GDP= $36,600

With healthcare reform generating dialog and questions from voters across party lines, it’s important to offer facts, especially when comparisons to other countries are given. It’s important to also talk about concepts of healthcare reform. The working man wants more reasonable prices and better benefits, goals the current proposals will likely not meet. 

Cuba, widely praised by some Dem lawmakers and leftwing extremists in the entertainment business, was not included in the Commonwealth Fund study. The communist state of Cuba has a per capita GDP of $9,500.

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Reader Comments (6)

I think one statement is exactly right... Each country could improve the quality of care. I was heartbroken about the stories in a production called Sicko, but it does not address other economic issues unless it supports the theme on Universal Healthcare grandeur.
February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames
Sicko was pure propaganda. Talk to an ordinary Cuban and listen to the Cuban physicians who called that film out.

You can always improve quality of care. However, government intrusion into the market has deteriorated quality of care.

Thanks for commenting--KBD
February 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterKay B. Day, Editor

Government intrusion has deteriorated quality of care? You work in healthcare and have seen evidence of this? Let me tell you what has decreased the quality of care -- unsafe staffing ratios. In a time when people have multiple comorbidities and are coming into the hospital much sicker and with many complex needs, nurse-patient ratios should be lower. It is impossible to provide qualtity care when nurses are overworked and have little time to spend with patients. This is where government needs to intervene in order to improve quality of care. Hospitals have been allowed to keep staffing levels low in order to line their pockets with the extra cash that they are not paying to staff the hospital. I see it every day and feel the stress and disappointment with not being able to provide the best care possible because I don't have the time. States, like Pennsylvania, need to step up to the plate and pass legisilation requiring better staffing ratios, and yet they have shot down the bill for six years! If people want better care, as I am sure you would want for yourself or a family member, then staffing ratios need to be mandated. In order to do that, the government needs to step in. Hospitals will never do it on their own. The are more interested in the bottom line than with the quality of care.

March 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEP

I agree that staffing ratios should be addressed. I have witnessed the impact of this firsthand, although I do not work in healthcare.

However, I do not see this as a problem for the federal government. This is an issue that communities must demand their healthcare facilities address, both at the local and state levels.

The federal government has no business in healthcare at any level, in my opinion, other than to address measures created by a national disaster.

Thanks for weighing in.

March 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterKay B. Day, Editor

I personally think the movie SiCKO was fantastic...

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSiCKO

Each to his own, SiCKO--I'm assuming you'll head to Cuba for your own medical care? ~KBD

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterKay B. Day, Editor

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