Report Finds U.S. Health System Lagging Further Behind

In Commonwealth Fund report, overall score falls from 2006; access to care, excess mortality cited
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. health system is operating poorly compared to its potential, with America falling further behind other nations that are leading on performance indicators, according to a report released by The Commonwealth Fund on July 17.

The report, Why Not the Best? Results from the National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance, 2008, is an update of the organization's 2006 scorecard. Overall, the U.S. system hasn't improved in the interim, and access to health care has fallen significantly. In 2007, 42 percent of U.S. adults aged 19 to 64 were uninsured or underinsured during the year, compared to 35 percent in 2003.

In 2008, the nation as a whole scored 65 out of a possible 100, as compared to benchmarks set by the top 10 percent of states, regions, providers, and top-performing countries. The score in 2006 was 67, the authors note. The United States fell to last place on a list of 19 industrialized nations in terms of deaths that might have been prevented with better care. The authors also point to high administrative costs, but on the positive side credit improvements in diabetes and blood pressure control.

"Average U.S. performance would have to improve by more than 50 percent across multiple indicators to reach benchmark levels of performance. Closing performance gaps would bring real benefits in terms of health, patient experiences and savings. For example, up to 101,000 fewer people would die prematurely each year from causes amenable to health care if the U.S. achieved the lower mortality rates of leading countries," the authors write.

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