Home > Health care, The Noise Machine > Best health-care system in the world…not (1)

Best health-care system in the world…not (1)

The Healthcare Noise Machine that likes to claim the U.S. has the “best health-care system in the world” took another hit last week when a new study showed that the U.S. has higher rates of chronic disease at every age level than the British do, even though we outspend them more than two-to-one.

It’s a reminder that the most expensive health-care system tends to achieve pretty mediocre results. And the British — don’t they have Socialized Medicine? Yikes!

Health Care Reform opponents can’t stand it when anyone points out how poor our results are, compared to countries that spend so much less. In a salute to Idiot America, they’ve decided to oppose funding for research that attempts to determine which treatments are effective and which ones aren’t — you know, science — by tossing around scare-words like “rationing” and “death panels”…as if health-care isn’t already rationed by wealth and social standing.

Over in the corner, the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care team has spent years pointing out that there are vast regional differences in per capita Medicare spending across the U.S. and that in this case, too, spending more money does not achieve better outcomes for patients. Whadda ya know — it turns out that health care is one sector of the U.S. economy where supply routinely drives demand, turning the free market upside down.

Not everyone agrees with the Dartmouth team about this, of course. Doctors and hospital executives in high-cost communities are especially vocal in their criticism of “unwarranted variation” — differences in treatment patterns that cannot be validated by medical science. These critics took heart last week when the feds released a study that recalculated Medicare spending data by factoring in special local expenses and severity of patient illness. 27 of 306 hospital-service regions switched from “higher than average” to “lower than average” through the new analysis…but 60 other regions switched from low to high.

Dartmouth’s Elliot Fisher was undaunted. He says the new analysis actually reinforces “the key conclusions of the Dartmouth Atlas: substantial variations in spending remain across U.S. regions that are not explained by differences in prices or underlying illness rates. These differences point to important opportunities to improve the efficiency of U.S. health care.”

Bill Sez: Although the Rochester, NY region ranks in the “lower than average” group for Medicare spending, there’s lots of room for improvement here, too. More to come.


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