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Americans don’t believe we have the greatest health care system in the world

Americans don’t believe we have the greatest health care system in the world
By Eric Black

It always drives me a little nuts when, at Republican events, the U.S. health care system is routinely described as The Greatest Health Care System In The world (GHCSITW). The crowd always goes wild at the ritualized invocation of American greatness.  In recent history, the invocation of the GHCSITW is, of course, always in the context of denouncing the depredations that will be visited upon the GHCSITW if Obamacare passes (before it did) or is not repealed (now that it has).

Perhaps there is a statistical torture chamber sufficiently nimble to produce some measure by which the U.S. system is the GHCSITW. It’s often pointed out by GHCSITW defenders that the unimaginably wealthy Arab royals like to come to the Mayo Clinic when they are sick, although this measure of American greatness may be difficult to wrestle into a statistic.

Still, you don’t have to be terrifically well-informed to know that by the most sensible and obvious measures of a health care system’s efficiency and effectiveness – for example, how comprehensive it is, the results it produces, how much it costs and even how it treats the less wealthy within a given society – the U.S. has pretty much the worst health care system in, at least, the developed world.

Our GHCSITW is the most expensive in the world (by far) on a per capita basis, leaves by far the biggest portion of its population without health insurance and compares very badly with Europe, Canada, Japan, etc. in life expectancy, infant mortality, death by various preventable illnesses, etc. etc.

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So it’s a little hard to know why anyone other than those ignorant of the facts or who hate factuality itself are so willing to applaud the ritual invocation of the GHCSITW.

Now comes some recent evidence of what the general public thinks from a poll done by Harris for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. When asked what letter grade they would give to the U.S. health care system, here is how Americans graded it:

“A”: 3%

“B”: 19%

“C”: 42%

“D”: 24%

“F”: 12 %.

DeLoitte got similar results with the same question in 2009 and 2010.

When asked whether the U.S. health care system works better than most systems in the world (which is a substantially lower standard being GHCSITW), 23 percent said yes.

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Hat tip to Dave Durenberger whose latest “commentary” called attention to the Deloitte survey.

A long writeup of the survey is here.