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According To High-Income Countries’ Health Care Rankings, The US Came Last

The US has once again fallen behind other high-income countries in access to health care, equity and outputs, even though it spends a much higher share of its economy on health care, according to a new report released Wednesday. Early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that life expectancy in the United States fell by over a year and a half in 2020, primarily due to increases in death from the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the report, in 2020, life expectancy in the US was 77.3 years instead of 78.8 years, with Covid-19 deaths accounting for 73.8% of this decline. A report was compiled using data from death and birth certificates entered by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2020. The data included in the early analysis were based on the numbers of recorded births and deaths. Some births and deaths that had not yet been recorded or counted were therefore not considered.

According To High-Income Countries’ Health Care Rankings, The US Came Last

Across all seven national studies, the Commonwealth Fund has conducted since 2004, the United States has placed near the bottom. There is no universal health care system in the US, which is the only country not surveyed. Although the new data does not reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it clearly outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s health care system that may be impacted by Covid-19 early in 2020.

According To High-Income Countries' Health Care Rankings, The US Came Last

Americans’ health and finances are compromised because of inadequate health insurance coverage, according to a report by David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, an organization that seeks to improve health care access and quality for impoverished populations. People may be forced to skip treatment or become saddled with debt because of that.

Blumenthal said income inequality limits access to health care more severely than in any other country. Compared to other wealthy nations, far too many Americans cannot afford the care they need or are uninsured. Among people of lower incomes, half said they did not receive care due to cost, as compared to just over 25 percent among those with higher incomes. People with higher incomes face financial barriers about 40% more than those with lower incomes, with 12% facing such hurdles in the United Kingdom.

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More generally, high-income Americans were more likely than low-income individuals to report facing financial difficulties in nearly all of the other countries surveyed — including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, as well as the United Kingdom. Study participants looked at access to care, health outcomes, administrative efficiency, equity, and other factors including preventative care, patient engagement, and other metrics to determine the best-performing countries.

According to the survey, the US also ranked low on maternal mortality, infant mortality, life expectancy at 60, and deaths that could have been avoided with timely access to care, in addition to lower access to care, according to the survey. When it comes to administrative efficiency, the United States came last because medical providers and patients are buried under paperwork, duplicate medical tests, insurance disputes, and confusing billing systems.

Where America excelled was in the care process, where it earned the number two spot. Age-related mammography screening rates and influenza vaccination rates among older adults performed better than in the U.S. as well as the proportion of adults who talked to health care providers about their diet, smoking, and alcohol intake.

The US and Norway reported using web-based portals the most to communicate concerns about their health and to refill their medications. Among adults with chronic illness, American adults were among the most likely to discuss treatment goals, priorities, and options with their providers, but also among the least likely to receive as much support as they felt was appropriate.

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