Evidence for health reform? You bet...your life

A poorly run healthcare system that focuses more on profits and less on quality is likely the reason Americans have shorter life expectancies than people in 12 other developed nations, a new study published in the journal Health Affairs concludes. 

Researchers Peter Muennig and Sherry Glied with the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University looked at the 15-year survival rates for men and women between the ages of 45 and 65 from 1975 to 2005, taking into consideration the high rates of smoking, obesity, traffic fatalities and homicides in the U.S. They determined that while U.S. rates for all of those trends were comparable with the other 12 nations--Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland--the U.S. was the only one that doesn't provide universal health coverage. 

What's more, the researchers pointed out that "unusually high medical spending" correlated with worse 15-year survival rates. While life expectancy actually went up in the U.S., it did so at a much lower clip than in all of the other nations, despite health costs increasing at a much faster rate. 

"Unregulated fee-for-service reimbursement and an emphasis on specialty care may contribute to high U.S. health spending, while leading to unneeded procedures and fragmentation of care," Muennig and Glide wrote. "Unneeded procedures may be associated with secondary complications. Fragmentation of care leads to poor communication between providers, sometimes conflicting instructions for patients, and higher rates of medical errors." 

For more information:
- here's the study in Health Affairs
- check out this Reuters article