U.S. healthcare once again lags behind other developed nations in quality

Lack of access and equity combined with poor efficiency are primary factors in why the U.S. ranks dead last in healthcare quality when compared with six other industrialized nations in a new report released this week by private Washington, D.C.-based healthcare foundation The Commonwealth Fund. 

Karen Davis, the foundation's president, believes that while the newly passed healthcare law should go a long way toward remedying the situation, once it fully takes effect in 2014, currently the fact that the U.S. spends the most on healthcare--$7,290 per capita per year--while getting the least out of it is "disappointing." By comparison, the Netherlands, ranked No. 1 in the Commonwealth Fund's report, spends $3,837 per capita annually on healthcare. 

"Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health insurance systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their long-term 'medical homes,'" the executive summary said. "Without reform, it is not surprising that the U.S. currently underperforms relative to other countries on measures of access to care and equity in healthcare between populations with above-average and below-average incomes." 

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, believes, however, that not even reform will be able to improve the status of the U.S. on the list, according to a HealthDay News article. She instead thinks that the increased role of private insurers will only serve to "obstruct care and drive up costs" more.

 "Unfortunately, the U.S. will almost certainly continue in last place, since the recently passed health reform will leave 23 million Americans without coverage," Woolhandler said. 

This is not the first time the U.S. has ranked last on the Commonwealth Fund's Mirror, Mirror list. It also ranked last in 2007, 2006 and 2004. Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are the five other nations analyzed in the report. 

To learn more:
- check out the report
- read this HealthDay News piece via Businessweek
- here's a MedPage Today article on the report