In May, the Commonwealth Fund issued its latest comparison of the U.S. medical system with five other wealthy nations' systems: Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Great Britain.
Predictably, the study begins: "Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms."
I was immediately suspicious, considering the loaded study by the World Health Organization seven years ago. (I wrote about it last week.)
My suspicion was justified. It turns out the new study is almost as biased as the WHO's. The authors write, "The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes."
I see. America "underperforms" because we don't have enough government intervention.
But while the U.S. lost points for not having national health insurance, the authors added, "[I]f insured, patients in the U.S. have rapid access to specialized health care services."
That's an understatement. Insured Americans have almost immediate access to cutting-edge procedures performed by some of the best-trained doctors. It's why our outcomes for such diseases as prostate and breast cancer are markedly better than in Canada's and Britain's socialized systems. The Commonwealth Fund doesn't mention that.
The United States is the center of medical innovation for the world. When internists ranked the world's top 10 medical innovations, eight were developed thanks to American innovations. The Commonwealth Fund ignores all that and focuses almost exclusively on the problems of our uninsured population.
As I've noted previously, the problem of the 45 million uninsured is exaggerated. The statistics represent a snapshot, and many uninsured people are reinsured in less than a year. The same people are not uninsured year in and year out.
The Commonwealth Fund study divides "quality" into right (effective) care, safe care, coordinated care and patient-centered care. The U.S. placed fifth or sixth in the last three.
But where did the U.S. place in "right care"?
"Right care" is the most important criterion because it includes things like how often women have mammograms and whether diabetics get proper treatment.
The Commonwealth Fund ranked the U.S. last in "equity": "Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick, not getting a recommended test, treatment or follow-up care ... because of costs."