Do You Want the Bad News or The Bad News?

Rodney Warner
Rodney Warner

It will probably come as no surprise that the U.S. health care system is the most expensive, least effective system of eleven developed nations in a recent survey by the Bloomberg School of Health at Johns Hopkins University.  The most effective, least expensive health care system is that of the United Kingdom (U.K.), which is facing severe financial problems of its own, according to the Telegraph. When it comes to health care, there really is no free lunch.

Since a previous study done ten years ago, the U.S. system has retained its last place standing, spending $8,508 per capita. The second worst system in the rankings, Norway, spends about a third less or $5,669 per capita. The study states the U.S.:

  • Ranks behind most countries on many measures of health outcomes, quality and efficiency.
  • Physicians face particular difficulties receiving timely information, coordinating care and dealing with administrative hassles.
  • Is beginning to catch up as it responds to financial incentives to improve health information systems and Obamacare should strengthen that effort, according to the study. The U.S. fares well in providing preventive care and patient-centered care, according to the report.
  • Health care problems include:
    • A relative shortage of primary care physicians,
    • A lack of access to primary care, especially for the poor,
    • A large number of low-income residents who skip needed care, do not get recommended tests or do not fill prescriptions because of cost,
    • A high infant mortality, and
    • Inordinate levels of mortality from conditions that could be controlled, such as high blood pressure and lower healthy life expectancy at age 60.
  • The researchers had glowing things to say about the U.K.’s government provided National Health System (NHS), which had better outcomes than the U.S. while spending less than half per capita, $3,405. However, according to the Telegraph article, 44% of NHS’ hospitals expect to end the year in deficit, with a combined “black hole” of more than £330 million between them. (At the time of this writing, that’s $513 million).

The article states the NHS is struggling with increasing costs due to the higher number of elderly patients needing expensive treatments. Sound familiar? According to the article, additional cost cutting may not be politically popular so the deficits will need to be addressed with additional funding.

No health care system is perfect, but even with the problems the NHS is facing, the fact we are paying more than twice what U.K. residents pay to get worse results should be a wake up call for all patients and those who work in our health care system.

We need to ask ourselves, why are we spending all this money while others do not? Why is so much money being wasted? There are a lot of people, organizations and businesses making billions of dollars in health care spending, while society not getting nearly the value that those in other countries receive.

Every dollar needlessly, uselessly burned up in the healthcare system is a dollar not saved, not spent lowering our nation’s debt, not spent improving our education system, not spent on creating jobs that add value to our economy. When will we wake up from our medicated haze and make necessary changes so this colossal, unnecessary transfer of wealth to a massive, bloated medical industrial complex grinds to a halt?