5 Myths About Our Ailing Health-Care System

An editorial in the Washington Post:

1. America has the best health care in the world.

Let’s bury this one once and for all. The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag behind many developed countries on virtually every health statistic you can name. Life expectancy at birth? We rank near the bottom of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, just ahead of Cuba and way behind Japan, France, Italy, Sweden and Canada, countries whose governments (gasp!) pay for the lion’s share of health care. Infant mortality in the United States is 6.8 per 1,000 births, more than twice as high as in Japan, Norway and Sweden and worse than in Poland and Hungary. We’re doing a better job than most on reducing smoking rates, but our obesity epidemic is out of control, our death rate from prostate cancer is only slightly lower than the United Kingdom’s, and in at least one study, American heart attack patients did no better than Swedish patients, even though the Americans got twice as many high-tech treatments.

Is the recession affecting ED volume?

From Kevin MD:

Mixed reaction from two emergency bloggers.

WhiteCoat sees a decline, and notes that in border like Arizona, Hispanics that normally visit the emergency department have left town.

I’m seeing more of what Shadowfax observes. More people are losing their jobs, and subsequently their health insurance, leading to a higher number of uninsured visiting the ED. What’s likely happening nationwide is that “there will be fewer commercially insured patients, and more Medicaid and uninsured patients,” which will “drive our reimbursement down significantly.”

This is happening in primary care settings as well.