Is Top-Dollar Treatment Getting Americans the Best Health Care in the World?

BY Jason Kane  November 11, 2011 at 5:10 PM EST

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund painted a pretty dismal picture of the American health care industry this week. But if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, these four graphics — based on a poll of more than 18,000 adults in the United States and 10 other high-income countries — should do the trick.

First, a reminder of how much we spend compared to other wealthy nations:

But is that top-dollar treatment getting us the best care in the world?

Survey says: No.

In the past year, 42 percent of Americans reported coordination gaps related to medical records or tests, or communication failures between providers. A fourth said that their medical records or test results were not available during a scheduled visit or that tests were duplicated. That’s nearly double the rates reported in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Americans are much more likely than those in the other high-income countries examined to struggle with medical debt and forgo needed care due to costs. A little more than a quarter were simply unable to pay their medical bills in the past year or encountered serious problems doing so. One to 14 percent of adults in the other countries surveyed reported the same.

In the United States, 42 percent said they had not visited a doctor, filled a prescription, or had not received recommended care. That’s twice the rate for every other country except for Australia, New Zealand, and Germany.

In every country surveyed, patients who have a “medical home” — an accessible primary care practice that knows their medical history and helps coordinate care — reported better coordination, fewer medical errors and test duplication, and greater satisfaction with care than those without one.

But here, too, American health care comes up short. A greater percentage of patients in the United States — both those with and without a medical home — said they experienced a medical error at some point in the last two years.

All graphics courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund.