NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 22, 2006

The nation's youngest and oldest citizens are suffering the most from a fragmented, wasteful and in some cases dangerous health care system, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund's Commission on a High Performance Health System.

According to the researchers:

  • When compared with nearly two dozen other industrialized countries, the United States has the highest infant mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy for people who have reached age 60.
  • If performance was improved in key areas, the nation could save an estimated 150,000 lives and perhaps as much as $100 billion annually, the report's authors concluded.
  • If health care providers increased the proportion of patients who have their diabetes and high blood pressure under control, as many as 40,000 deaths per year could be prevented at a savings of at least $1 billion, according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Other troubling symptoms:

  • Six years after a landmark report on medical errors, the United States still lacks an error-reporting system to assess safety; in the past two years, one-third of patients reported a medical, medication or lab test mistake.
  • Nearly one in four U.S. adults reported having to wait at least six days to receive care when they needed medical attention.
  • Hispanic people are far more likely to lack health insurance than other ethnic and racial groups.
  • The mortality rate among black Americans is significantly higher at infancy and for those with heart disease or diabetes; black people also have considerably lower rates of cancer survival.

The researchers urged the nation's political and policy leaders to advance changes that would improve efficiency, accuracy and affordability, but they did not endorse specific legislative or regulatory proposals.

Source: Larry Wheeler, "Study: Health care woes hurt young, old," Gannett News Service/Detroit Free Press, September 21, 2006; based upon: "The National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance," Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System, September 2006.


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