Why American Health Care Is so Bad

Ezra Klein in The American Prospect:

The Commonwealth Fund just released a broad survey collecting health care attitudes and experiences from patients in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Here are summaries of some of the findings:

1. We spend the most. We spend more than any other country in the world. In 2005, our per capita — so, per person — spending was $6,697. The next highest in the study was Canada, at $3,326. And remember — that’s “mean” spending, so it’s the amount we spend divided by our population. But unlike in Canada, about 16 percent of our population doesn’t have insurance, and so often can’t use the system. These facts should set the stage for all numbers that come after: Every time you see a data point in which were dead last, or not leading the pack, remember that we spend twice as much as any of our competitors.

2. We don’t pay doctors according to the quality of their care. One of the first questions is “percent of primary care practices with financial incentives for quality” — in other words, how many doctors are paid, in part, according to the quality of the care they deliver. In the United Kingdom, the number is 95 percent. In Australia, it’s 72 percent. The U.S. scores lower than anyone else, at 30 percent.