Here's one of two stories we emailed August 13, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.
Up to 200,000 air travelers visit the U.S. each year for medical treatments, and yet, the country ranks last among 11 high income countries for healthcare. So while it seems the U.S. may have the best of the best in medicine, the system as a whole fails most people. Researchers from the Commonwealth Fund measured the 11 countries under five themes that collectively assessed access to quality, equitable, and efficient care that ensured long, healthy lives. The U.S. ranked in nearly every category.
The U.S. also has the least affordable care despite spending the most money on healthcare, resulting in a lack of timely and effective care, high rates of mortality, and a high rate of COVID-19 deaths — especially amongst marginalized groups. The biggest factor is primary care, for which every other country on the list ranks highly. In contrast, the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians despite a rise in demand. Here’s what’s going on:
- First off, education in the U.S. is much higher than in other countries. For example, public universities are free in Germany, which ranks fifth on the list.
- Physicians in the U.S. get paid double that of other countries, but a large gap in income potential exists between primary care doctors and specialists.
- As more doctors crippled with student debt choose to specialize, a separate report estimates a shortage of 139,000 doctors by 2033, mainly in primary care.
- Solving this shortage leads to massive benefits. Adding just one provider for every 1,500 people in underserved communities could save more than 7,000 lives a year.
The U.S. was also the only country on the list without universal health coverage. Despite the share of Americans favoring universal healthcare growing, with 63% in favor in 2020, the topic’s polarity prohibits a path forward. To learn more about how this would work without the noise of political discourse, turn to this resource from the American Academy of Family Physicians.
- Extensive coverage: Washington Post
- Medical tourists in the U.S.: United States International Trade Commission
- The primary care shortage: Brookings and USA News
- Full rankings report: The Commonwealth Fund