Thursday, March 16, 2006

US Health Care Quality Ratings Released

The RAND group just published in The New England Journal of Medicine one of the largest studies of health care quality ever conducted.

The good news is that the quality of health care received by Americans is pretty much the same regardless of race, class, gender, or age.

The bad news is that the quality of health care received by all Americans isn't very good.

According to the study, Americans only receive about 55% of recommended health care.

In the words of Dr. Steven Asch, chief author of the study, "It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, white or black, insured or uninsured. We all get equally mediocre care."

If nothing else this suggests that comprehensive health care reform is necessary in the country, and, more specifically, there aren't really any models to go off here in the US. It's not like we can turn to the care of some specific racial, socioeconomic, gender, or age group in the country and use it as an example. Every group is struggling in terms of health care.

What we need is to do is completely overhaul the US health care system. And, quite frankly, the best place to look for how to do this is overseas. I've discussed before how France is an excellent model. There are certainly others to consider, as well.

Throughout US history you'll find discussions of American "exceptionalism." Academic historians often work to challenge many of these notions, and rightfully so, but I think there's no doubt that the structure of the US health care system today is exceptional among industrialized nations.

It just happens to be exceptionally bad.

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