Mine's better than yours...not

The Urban Institute recently published a brief examining the quality of U.S. health care as compared internationally.
The U.S. does relatively well in some areas, including cancer care, and less well in others, including conditions amenable to prevention and coordinated management of chronic conditions. The authors conclude that concerns that health reform could compromise currently excellent care are unwarranted; health reform can only help.
Measuring the technical quality or effectiveness of health care, the authors considered several areas:
  • Quality of preventive care.
  • Quality of care for chronic conditions.
  • Quality of care for certain acute conditions.
  • Quality of cancer care.
Findings include:
  • U.S.-Canada comparisons more often find Canadian quality is better.
  • Overuse of health services not linked with service volume.
  • Patient safety problems appear more prevalent in the United States.
  • Close to one-fifth of the U.S. population under age 65 is uninsured.
Stating that "the United States is one of only three countries in the OECD, together with Mexico and Turkey, which has a sizeable share of its population lacking coverage," the authors go on to summarize their findings:
Our findings strengthen arguments that reform is needed to improve the relative performance of the U.S. health system on quality. If reform accomplishes no more than extending insurance coverage to the more than 45 million Americans without insurance, it will be an important step forward, but more is needed to ensure health care quality improvement.

How Does the Quality of U.S. Health Care Compare Internationally?
by Elizabeth Docteur and Robert A. Berenson (Urban Institute)
(August 2009, pdf. 14pp/148kB)

Abstract (html)



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