What’s Good about the US Health Care System?

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Sometimes it’s important to take a step back from a problem and look at what is working rather than simply focusing on what isn’t working. In today’s post, I dug through some statistics too see if I could find some areas where the US health care system really shined. Some areas that don’t need to be fixed and are doing just fine on their own. Regardless of anything in the health care reform legislation or the Supreme Court’s decision coming out later this month – these 5 areas will continue to be points where the US health care system will excel.


Preventive care

In a 2007 study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, compared with five other nations—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the US scored highest in its preventive care efforts. The study found that the US had the highest rankings in the following areas:

  • % of adults receive preventive care reminders: 50%
  • % of women receiving Pap smears in past 3 years: 89%
  • % of women receiving mammogram in past 3 years: 86%

Cancer Care

A 2009 report compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation looked at various measures of healthcare comparing the US system to international systems. One of the stand out areas was in cancer care. In fact, their report states that the US is “one of several world leaders in providing high quality cancer care.”

The US has the highest survival rates for cancer of the colon, rectum, lung, breast, and prostate.

Access to Technology

While in some other countries, there may be wait times involved in getting access to high-tech imaging, in the US, we have ample access to it. According to OECD statistics from 2009, there are 25.9 MRI units per million people and 34.3 CT scanners per million people.

Physician Pay

Due to the nature of the US health system with the bulk of care being provided through private, rather than government avenues, physicians in the US far outstrip other countries in pay. (Plus we have ~12% of our civilian workforce currently working in the healthcare sector providing a significant amount of power to the economic engine). According to OECD statistics, general practice physicians make approximately 20% more by working in the US.

Health Innovation & Funding

The US health care system also supports research. From the 2011 OECD Scoreboard on Health Innovation, it says:

The United States is by far the largest funder in both absolute and relative terms, at just over 0.3% of GDP spent on health R&D.

While .3% may not seem like a lot, I’ve inserted the OECD’s graph below just to give you a visual of how much more the US spends compared to other countries.

OECD Public Funding of Health Innovation

What else have I missed? What are other areas where you think US health care excels? Leave me a comment with your thought!

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