Friday, August 30, 2013

America's Highly Inefficient Health Care System

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As longer term readers know, I am a proponent of a single payer health care system for America.  A new Bloomberg study confirms that Americans pay for - much more in many cases - for a far less efficient health care system than the majority of modern nations.  Admittedly, my view is soured by my time doing legal work for a health care system and seeing almost daily how providing quality health care was a low priority compared to playing monopoly wars with other health care providers and devising ways to bind doctors to particular hospitals for patient referral purposes.  The map above compares different nations on the level of efficiency of their health care systems.   Here are highlights from a Huffington Post story:

As supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act debate the best way to overhaul a clearly broken healthcare system, it's perhaps helpful to put American medicine in a global perspective.

The infographic [above] is based on a recent Bloomberg ranking of the most efficient countries for healthcare, and highlights enormous gap between the soaring cost of treatment in the U.S. and its quality and effectiveness. 

It's remarkable how low America places in healthcare efficiency: among the 48 countries included in the Bloomberg study, the U.S. ranks 46th, outpacing just Serbia and Brazil. Once that sinks in, try this one on for size: the U.S. ranks worse than China, Algeria, and Iran.

But the sheer numbers are really what's humbling about this list: the U.S. ranks second in healthcare cost per capita ($8,608), only to be outspent by Switzerland ($9,121) -- which, for the record, boasts a top-10 healthcare system in terms of efficiency. Furthermore, the U.S. is tops in terms of healthcare cost relative to GDP, with 17.2 percent of the country's wealth spent on medical care for every American.

In other words, the world's richest country spends more of its money on healthcare while getting less than almost every other nation in return.

The systems that rank highly on Bloomberg's list are as diverse as the nations to which they belong. The unifying factor seems to be tight government control over a universal system, which may take many shapes and forms -- a fact evident in the top-three most efficient healthcare systems in the world: Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan.

Ranking third on Bloomberg's list, the Japanese system involves universal healthcare with mandatory participation funded by payroll taxes paid by both employer and employee, or income-based premiums by the self-employed. Long-term care insurance is also required for those older than 40. As Dr. John W. Traphagan notes in The Diplomat, Japan controls costs by setting flat rates for everything from medications to procedures, thus eliminating competition among insurance providers. While most of the country's hospitals are privately owned and operated, the government implements smart regulations to ensure that the system remains universal and egalitarian.

Meanwhile, Singapore's healthcare system is largely funded by individual contributions, and is often hailed by conservatives as a beacon of personal responsibility. But as conservative David Frum notes, the system is actually fueled by the invisible hand of the public sector: individuals are required to contribute a percentage of their monthly salary based on age to a personal fund to pay for treatments and hospital expenditures. In addition, the government provides a safety net to cover expenses for which these personal savings are inadequate. Private healthcare still plays a role in Singapore's system, but takes a backseat to public offerings, which boast the majority of doctors, nurses, and procedures performed.

The truth is, America's system is seriously  broken yet the GOP seeks to destroy Obamacare and in the process throw millions of Americans to the wolves.  The hypocrisy is off the charts because meanwhile, the GOP base claims to be worship the Gospel message.
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