March 18, 2006

America's Medical Delivery System Mediocre

How many times have you heard the mantra from the right, from conservatives, from corporate medical and pharmaceutical interests that "socialized" medicine, government-controlled medicine -- the national health insurance programs of Canada and Europe -- cannot deliver the high quality of care that American medicine does? How many times have you heard the corporate health interests claim that American medicine is far superior to any nationalized system anywhere?

"Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health care quality suggests that Americans -- rich, poor, black, white -- get roughly equal treatment, but it's woefully mediocre for all." [my emphasis added]

This is the opening sentence from a front-page article in my local paper, the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, written by Jeff Donn of the Associated Press about a survey reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The article goes on:

The survey of nearly 7,000 patients, reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered only people in urban areas who sought treatment, but it still challenged some stereotypes: Blacks and Hispanics in the study actually received slightly better medical treatment than whites.

On the other hand, the findings don't counter previous studies that found wide disparities in access to health care for minorities and low-income people.

While researchers who conducted the newest study acknowledged separate evidence that minorities fare worse in some areas of expensive care and suffer more from some conditions than whites, their study found that once in treatment, minorities' overall care appears similar to that of whites.

"It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, white or black, insured or uninsured," said Dr. Steven Asch, who helped conduct the study for the Rand Health research institute in Santa Monica, Calif. "We all get equally mediocre care."

...The survey examined whether people got the highest standard of treatment for 439 measures ranging across common chronic and acute conditions and disease prevention. It looked at whether they got the right tests, drugs and treatments.

Overall, patients received only 55 percent of recommended steps for top-quality care — and no group did much better or worse than that. A well-functioning health-care system should provide recommended levels of care 80 to 90 percent of the time [my emphasis added], the study's authors said.

Americans cannot have a sensible conversation about revolutionizing our health care system unless we understand the inequities of the current system. We cannot begin to reform our health care system until we loosen the death-grip of the corporate interests on human health. As long as profit is the central motivating factor for delivery of health care, Americans won't receive what they deserve.


Dicky Neely said...

Senate majority leader Bill Frist is a big player in our health care system. That should put your mind at ease!

Dicky Neely said...

Senate majority leader Bill Frist is a big player in our health care system. That should put your mind at ease!