Health Care in the United States...Best in the World?
One time I had the misfortune (due to poor judgement) of eating raw oysters while working in Thailand. Thinking I was going to die, I called a taxi and asked to go to the nearest hospital emergency room. This was not Bangkok mind you, but a less populated part of the country. I was expecting the typical emergency room nightmare, with the twist of a "less developed" country's version of that experience, which could only be worse. Instead, as I entered the hospital I was immediately attended to and saw a physician (medical doctor) soon after. The problem was diagnosed, I was given a medical treatment plan and medication. I was out in a couple of hours. I cringed as I went to the payment desk as I had not called my insurance company yet. The bill was thirteen US dollars. In the course of working overseas I have had medical treatment in Singapore, Philippines, Japan and Italy. All superb. I imagine if you asked most Americans how they think the US health systems ranks in the world, they would probably say the best or near the top.
What are we getting for our money?
I am not going to get in to what Americans have to pay for medical insurance premiums, prescriptions, deductibles etc., as that will be covered in another piece. It is a lot. So what are we getting for our money? What does the average American expect from their health care provider? We tend to aim low and say things like ease of getting an appointment or not having to wait long to see a specialist. Well..yes...that's like saying when I dial a number on my phone it goes through. But how do Americans judge how effective their expensive medical plans are in improving their quality of life.? That is the question that should be asked before we start arguing over table scraps like appointment scheduling and access to specialists.
Medical Measures of Effectiveness (MOE)
Here is what I expect from high quality (and costly) health care, which this country supposedly has: A long (and quality) life expectancy, safe and successful child birth for mothers and healthy infant births. It basically covers our personal health as well as ensuring our loved one's get a successful start in life. I am sure their are other MOE that could be used also.
So how are we doing?
With all these fantastic medical schools, high tech equipment and costly coverage plans, one would expect the US to rank fairly high in these categories.. With respect to life expectancy, the US ranks ranks 47th out of 193 countries listed with an average age of 78.87. (http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/life-expectancy-by-country/) . Just ahead of Cuba and behind Lebanon. With respect to mother's dying during childbirth, the US is 47th out of 181 countries listed. Better than Bahrain but worse than Kazakhstan (https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=2223). And finally, for infant mortality, the US ranks 50th out of 190 countries listed. Just ahead of Serbia and behind Bosnia and Herzegovina. (http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/infant-mortality-rate-by-country/). Also, every developed country is ahead of the US in all three categories, as well as many countries Americans would consider less developed.
Just a thought
So before we start arguing over who will pay for what and what we need to change and how we will do it, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves what we expect from health care in America. I don't know about you, but I would have expected the US to be better in the categories I mentioned. For one, the medical community needs to stop acting like 18th century healers and start applying technology towards prevention rather that just treating the symptom. Pharmaceuticals have simply replaced roots and herbs. There is no reason that every 18 year old could not be given a DNA profile that would provide them a data point on potential genetic medical issues that may require a lifestyle change to address problems early. Is the technology in this area perfect? Will it cover everything? No. But at least it is another data point a young person could use to formulate a wellness plan. The next time you see your health care provider, ask them for a nutrition and exercise plan. Just be prepared for the confused look..followed by a ..."what...where does it does it hurt"?