US Health Care: How Do We Stack Up?

When comparing access to health care among different age groups or to health care in other countries, is the issue access or cost?

We often pride ourselves as Americans that we have the best health care system in the world—at least for those of us who have insurance. I don’t want to get into that debate here, although it will be one that we will hear much about during the next 60 days leading up to the presidential election. Here’s an interesting article that perhaps both sides can use to make points. It was published in the August issue of Health Affairs. (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2012/08/30/hlthaff.2011.0851.abstract).

The authors wanted to better understand the comparatively poor performance of the United States health care system.They postulated that access is the key issue and showed that citizens over the age of 65, because of Medicare, had better health outcomes compared with younger age groups for selected diagnoses.These conditions are those that have been found to be amendable to effective and timely health care. They also compared the US results with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.These 3 countries had better results overall than the US, even though the US health care expenditures were much higher.

So is the issue access or cost—or both? I’ll be interested in seeing how the voters decide this issue in November.