Healthcare dysfunction in the US

The health policy of any country is determined by a complex process, debated for consensus and finally implemented. The health systems of the world differ in their perception of the health requirements of its people and the ways of achieving it.

Health problems too vary from country to country and has a great degree of relevance on how health is perceived within that society. For instance in US, obese people are considered to be of poor health, while in other societies, it is perhaps even a desired condition, particularly among those who are thin (Jonas, Goldsteen & Karen, 2007). Societies have differing diagnostic and treatment models with correspondingly different training and authority of healers.

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Countries and cultures have their own health systems which are distinctly organized and where, expected outcomes are different. However, there are many common goals among all healthcare systems. Ensuring healthcare for its poor or people unable to afford healthcare, is one of these common goals.

In the US, the health policy of the government is often a controversial and debatable topic. US has historically seen a pro market ideology and an anti government bias. When people want more governmental action on any subject, they have a burden to justify it and ensure political support for its implementation. The role of public sector in healthcare in the US is very limited which may be attributed to this anti government bias.

This in turn has paved the way for the private sector to lead the implementation of changes in the system. Although Americans agree that access to medical care is any individual’s right and that none should be denied medical care for financial reasons, difficulties arise when strategies are developed to implement these.

A report from the Commonwealth Fund Commission on health system performances projects a disturbing picture of the US healthcare system. The report emphasizes that the country falls short of what it could actually achieve for the same investment in healthcare.

The report awards 66 points to the US out of a maximum 100 points, calculated on the basis of 37 national indicators including quality, access and efficiency. The report reveals that the country could save about 100,000 to 150,000 lives by just improving its performance in certain vital areas. This is also estimated to save the country about $50 to $100 billion each year.

The implications of the report was echoed by the senior vice president of the fund, Cathy Schoen who said that the unavailability of healthcare coverage and problems in access to care are driving down care quality while rising up costs in the US. Cathy also warned that the healthcare system is going in the wrong direction and urgently needs to change its course. The US is ranked 15th among the 19 countries in accounting for deaths that are preventable through medical intervention (Mahon, 2006).

Among people less than 75 years of age, there are about 115 preventable deaths for every 100,000 Americans compared to 75 to 84 among top countries. Among the industrialized nations, US has the least life expectancy at 60 and the worst infant mortality. The report card reveals a considerable gap between the best performance and the national average performance in terms of healthcare quality, access and efficiency.

The Commission’s report emphasizes that by just incorporating appropriate changes in the organizing, financing and delivery system of the healthcare, the country can save considerable number of lives and money.

To illustrate this, the commission highlights that if everyone with BP and diabetes achieved care on par with the top performing levels, about $1 billion to $2 billion and 20,000 to 40,000 lives could be saved each year. The Commission has also discovered the under use of electronic medical records (EMR), with only 17% of doctors using EMR, compared to about 80% among the top three countries, as of 2001.

Among other factors plaguing the system are slow dispersion and higher insurance administrative costs. About 7.3% of the national health expenditures in the US is spent on insurance administrative costs, compared to just 2% in France and Japan.