U.S. Health Care: Worst Bang For Your Buck
Policy + Politics

U.S. Health Care: Worst Bang For Your Buck


Most people associate cost with value—you expect to pay more for something of higher quality, and less for something of little quality.

But when it comes to health care in the United States, conventional wisdom goes out the window.

A new report released Monday by the Commonwealth Fund found that, for the fifth year in a row, the United States has the poorest performing health care system among 11 comparable countries, despite being the most expensive.

Related: How to Control America’s Healthcare Costs

"Although the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country and has the highest proportion of specialist physicians, survey findings indicate that from the patients' perspective, and based on outcome indicators, the performance of American health care is severely lacking," the report says.

The group measured the health systems in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the U.S. ranked last or near last in nearly all aspects of health access, efficiency and equality. And despite its low marks for quality care, the United States spends 17.7 percent of its GDP on healthcare—far more than any other country.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, which has a single-payer health system, ranked first, followed by Switzerland, which has a system similar to the United States.

Authors of the report note that their research was conducted before Obamacare took effect—which has expanded coverage to millions of Americans. They say if the law continues on pace, it will likely improve the United States’ standings in terms of access, one of the 5 performance metrics used in the study. Right now, the U.S. ranks in last place out of the 11 countries for access to care.

“Since the data in this study were collected, the U.S. has made significant strides adopting health information technology and undertaking payment and delivery system reforms spurred by the Affordable Care Act,” the authors wrote.

The study measured 80 aspects of each of the 11 countries’ health systems relating to five performance measures including health, quality, efficiency, access and equity.