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Healthcare In the US Lags Behind Other Countries

Americans think that their system of healthcare is the best in the world. Nope. Not even close. Not even for privileged white Americans. We're number 13 in a recent ranking of 13 countries.

A team of researchers compared six health outcomes in the wealthiest (top 1% and 5%) American counties to health outcomes of average citizens in 12 other developed countries. In three areas, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality, and heart attack survival, U.S. patients fared worse, and in two areas health outcomes are no better than for average citizens in other countries. Again: Health care for privileged Americans living in the wealthiest counties ranked worse overall than health care for average people in 12 other countries.

As expected, the health outcomes of White US citizens living in the 1% and 5% richest counties are better than those of average US citizens (not surprising!).

Breast cancer survival was the only area in which wealthy white American patients fared as well as average patients from all of the comparison countries, and better than 1 other country.

Infant mortality and maternal death rates in the US are disgraceful.  The infant death rate in the wealthiest American counties (4.01 deaths per 1000 live births) was higher than all the other 12 comparison countries. For example, in Finland the infant mortality rate is 1.7 per 1,000 live births. The average rate in America is even worse: 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. [See study tables for numbers.]

Again: Health care for privileged Americans living in the wealthiest counties ranked worse than health care for average people in 12 other countries. The 12 other comparison countries were Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Yes, the other countries all have universal health care with a single payer system. And we don't.

From Medscape: Even for Wealthy, US Healthcare Fails to Match Care in Many Other Countries

When it comes to health care, even privileged white Americans fare worse than the average citizens of 12 other developed countries, a new study suggests. 

Researchers compared health outcomes of white Americans in the top 5% of rich counties to those of average patients from 12 other nations. In many areas, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and heart attack survival, U.S. patients fared worse, the researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine. Breast cancer survival was the only area in which wealthy white American patients fared better than average patients from all of the comparison countries.

"The most privileged white Americans do not get the world's best health care across a variety of areas," said study leader Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, co-director of the Health Care Transformation Institute and vice provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. "In a few they do, but mostly they don't."

Many Americans, especially the wealthy ones, think they are getting the best care possible, Dr. Emanuel said. "But having the head of the hospital come to meet you in your nice private room doesn't equate with quality care," he added.

In many respects, average citizens of at least some of those countries fared better than the most privileged Americans. 

The infant mortality rate among those living in the top 5% of highest-income counties was 4.01 per 1,000 births, a rate higher than that of all 12 comparison countries. The average rate in America 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Maternal mortality among white women living in the 1% highest income counties in the U.S. is 10.05 per 100,000 births (it's 26.40 per 100,000 overall in the U.S.). Of the 12 countries examined by the researchers, Canada and France had the highest maternal mortality at 6.0 deaths per 100,000 births and 5.10 deaths per 100,000 births, respectively.

Wealthy patients suffering heart attacks in the U.S. also fared worse than average patients in Norway and Denmark. The 30-day mortality rate of Americans living in the richest 1% of counties was 12.7% as compared to a rate of 10.2% in average Norwegians and 10.7% in average Danes.

The only bright spots for privileged white Americans were breast and colon cancer. The five year survival rate for U.S. women with breast cancer living in the richest 5% of counties was 92.6%, which was similar to average rate in 11 of the comparison countries and exceeding just one.

Five year survival rates for colon cancer in the 5% highest income counties was 67.2%, which was higher than that of average Americans (64.9%) and average citizens of six of the comparison countries, comparable to the rate for average citizens in four countries and lower than the rate for average citizens of two countries.

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