Cape Elizabeth, ME (PressExposure) July 27, 2011 -- Healthcare cost in America is double the rate of the rest of the developed world. The quality of American healthcare arguably ranks 37th in the world. Access to care in America is the lowest in the developed world.
In 2011 it is estimated that America will spend 2.7 trillion dollars on healthcare about twice what the rest of the developed world spends per capita. The numbers are mind boggling. For $2.7 trillion we could finance 153 years of NASA, two and a quarter years of total American energy consumption, or 2/3 of World War Two (all in current $).
For double what the rest of the developed world pays do we get a superior system of healthcare? Not according to The World Health Organization. In their now outdated review in 2000 America ranked 37th. While this number has shock appeal, the results have come under fire even by the people who developed the survey including Editor-in-Chief Philip Musgrove.
Other statistics would indicate under performance by America's healthcare system on a results basis. Infant mortality is one measure of a country's future prospects. In 2009 The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data indicated America ranked 31st with 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 births. The average for all developed countries was 4.5. Life expectancy at birth in America was 78.2 years old in 2009 ranking 26th of 34 developed nations. Cancer mortality for 2009 (or the most recently available year) places America 18th. The reason for the statistical results rank seems the source of endless debate. To make a strong case for the expenses and subsequent results would seem to require more than statistical nuance.
In terms of access, the rest of the developed world has all inclusive systems for residents. America currently has over 50 million people without healthcare coverage. Even when The Affordable Care Act is fully implemented the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates 23 million Americans will remain without healthcare coverage. No other developed country allows citizens to go through bankruptcy due to healthcare debt. A Harvard study using results from 2007 (before the recession ramped up) indicated over half of all personal bankruptcies that year were primarily related to medical costs and nearly 79% of those filing for bankruptcy had healthcare insurance.
Much work remains to bring down costs, improve quality and provide access to all US residents. A great place to start might be restructuring how services are paid for. Rather than pay on the volume of services, paying on results would have the incentive to find the optimum result without overspending and over treating. It is estimated by Peter Orszag, former White House Director of Management and Budget, that 1/3 of healthcare spending is a combination of waste and excess volume of services. At a current spending rate of $2.7 trillion a savings of 900 billion would make a world of difference.
This cannot be accomplished overnight without creating a major disruption in a very fragile economy. Over an extended period of time with the right incentives for results, major improvements can be achieved.
Examples to study and examine in crafting solutions are out there. We do not have to go abroad to find answers several reside right here in the US. The VA system, The Massachusetts plan and the incubation of the Vermont plan are places to start. Approaches that place the system closer to those involved in the design, administration, provision, receiving and paying for care would seem to hold promise and more involved commitment.