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

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of denouncing the depredations that will be visited upon the GHCSITW if Obamacare passes (before it did) or is not repealed (now that it has).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.

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.

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

A long writeup of the survey is here.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Rod Loper on 07/25/2011 - 09:30 am.

    I wait for the day when some MSM interviewer challenges
    this assertion. I am not holding my breath.

  2. Submitted by Clare LaFond on 07/25/2011 - 09:31 am.

    The financing in the system is broken, and that’s what controls access for much of the population in this country. High deductibles and co-pays along with exorbitant drug prices force poor choices for those who have the misfortune to fall ill even if insured. Consumers don’t have adequate knowledge to weigh costs and benefits of health care purchases, so free market principles don’t apply.

    A significant and often unrecognized contributor to costs is the lack of a comprehensive view of capacity in the system. Hospitals overbuild and then compete with one another to fill beds, expensive equipment is often idle, rural areas have no providers, and at the same time there are shortages of primary care doctors and nurses. What would happen if a factory were run with those kinds of capacity imbalances?

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/25/2011 - 09:36 am.

    Maybe there’s hope.
    We can’t improve if people don’t think tht we need it.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/25/2011 - 10:47 am.

    Clare@2’s right. A factor in keeping people ignorant about how broken the system is is the fact that for many, including the elderly retired, their health care is a given, paid for by someone else which is not a subject they have to concern themselves with. I base that observation partly on my own experience where I did not have to pay attention to health care bills which were paid by employer based insurance. For many people, how retired, that has been a given in their lives too. I suspect here are quite a few people, maybe the Tea Party gives us a rough idea how many, who are not among the uninsured or underinsured but who have their benefits paid for by someone else.

    Another factor is that generally speaking, women are larger users of health care than men. Men are notoriously indifferent to and ignorant about their health one reason men die younger from things like prostate cancer and heart attacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this “I don’t need no stinkin’ health care” thinking drives some of the thinking that health care by its nature is sort of “socialized” something real, red-blooded, individualistic American men can do without.

  5. Submitted by Sandra Nelson on 07/25/2011 - 12:03 pm.

    Every elected official at the state and federal level should be required to purchase, at her/his own expense, a high-deductible ($5,000) plan for a minimum of three years. Due to unaffordable premiums, I was forced to make the switch two years ago. It has been an eye-opening experience — one that makes the need for universal health care a no-brainer.

  6. Submitted by Fran Tarkleton on 07/25/2011 - 02:43 pm.

    Thank goodness I’m not alone. I must hang around a lot of conservatives, because it seems like all I ever hear about is how we have the greatest health care system. Yet I have actually bothered to read the data. I know how much our system costs compared to other countries (on average, 6 times more per service) and how our rates of infant mortality are worse than so-called “third world” countries like Guatemala and Cuba. We’re getting ripped off. I’m glad to see this study and that other people understand that too.

  7. Submitted by Rich Crose on 07/25/2011 - 03:22 pm.

    I think they mean we have the most “Advanced” health care system in the world.

    Our brilliant doctors and health care professionals can cure just about anything that ails you –if you can afford to pay for it.

    It is the result of our Plutocracy –one dollar, one vote.

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/25/2011 - 03:50 pm.

    Jon Erik (#4). All of us pay into Medicare from our first job as teens until we retire at 65 and are insured by Medicare. Medicare’s administrative costs are about 2%; those of regular private insurance are about 25-30% including the tons of paperwork required of providers.

    Medicare is not free, however. The monthly premium is a little over $100 and we are charged for certain procedures that are not covered. The big payouts come from the privatized 2003 drug plan (Part D) for which the government pays retail instead of negotiating prices. My out-of-pocket spending last year included $3,481 for insurance plus $4,163 for deductibles, uncovered services, eyeglasses and drugs ($2,411 of this for drugs).

  9. Submitted by will lynott on 07/25/2011 - 07:18 pm.

    Clare #2 is wrong (sorry). Health care is not amenable to “free market” forces. How can it be? As currently framed in this country, it is run by the insurance companies, and they have every incentive to minimize health care delivery, while at the same time maximizing sales of their policies. This leads to a lot of abuses, like cherry picking healthy policy holders, dropping pre-existing conditions–you’ve heard it all before.

    Medicare and the VA deliver quality care at very cheap rates. Medicare for all is the only way.

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