US Pharm. 2012;37(7):1.
There is probably no issue more divisive
in the political arena today than that of health care reform. While
just about everyone I talk with from all professional and political
spectrums agrees that something needs to be done to make health care in
this country more available and affordable for all of its citizens, not
many can actually agree 100% to a plan to make that happen. And if
early political ads are any indication, health care reform will be
right up there with the economy and jobs when the presidential debates
heat up later this year.
According to a new report conducted by
the Commonwealth Fund—a private foundation that aims to promote better
access, improved quality, and greater efficiency of health care—despite
the fact that Americans spend more on health care than citizens of 12
other developed nations, they are not necessarily receiving equal or
better quality of care. For example, according to the study, health
care in the United States costs approximately $8,000 per capita
compared to Japan or New Zealand, where health care spending is
two-thirds less than in the U.S., or in Norway and Switzerland, where
spending is one-third less.
Furthermore, the study uncovered that
patients in the U.S. fared worse in terms of asthma fatalities among
patients aged 5 to 39 years and ranked poorly in diabetes-related
amputations. As for in-hospital heart attack and stroke death rates,
the U.S. ranks as just average. And while some may argue that the
medical conditions studied were isolated and somewhat arbitrary, the
study revealed that despite the U.S. spending on health care, which
ranks number one among the 13 countries studied (the others were
Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, Germany, Norway, Japan,
Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) in
health care dollars spent as a proportion of its GDP (17%), Americans
are receiving poorer access to physicians, with just 2.4 doctors for
every 100,000 citizens; only Japan ranked worse in this category.
Some of the other results from this
study may surprise you. Americans also have the second worst rate of
physician consultation (behind Sweden), relatively few hospital beds,
and fairly short hospital stays in acute-care situations. By the time a
patient in the U.S. is discharged from the hospital, it will have cost
our health care system an average of $18,000 compared to $13,000 for
similar care in Canada. In Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, France, and
Germany the costs dip below $10,000. While this is no laughing matter,
it does remind me of a joke I heard recently: How many physicians does
it take to change a light bulb? The answer: It depends on the kind of
insurance the light bulb has.
And the disparities in health care costs
are not limited to medical conditions. When comparing the cost of the
30 most commonly prescribed medications, the report found that
Americans are paying one-third more than Canadians and Germans, and
twice as much as patients in Australia, France, Denmark, the
Netherlands, the U.K., and New Zealand.
We clearly need to better control health
care costs so that patients in this country get more “bang for their
buck.” I think we have the best health care network in the world, but
there is tremendous waste in the system. And that includes pharmacists
not being utilized to their fullest professional potential in making
sure patients remain compliant with their medications. The better a
patient’s medication therapy is managed, generally the healthier the
patient…and healthier patients save the U.S. health care system
Do we really need health care reform in
the U.S.? I’ll let you decide for yourself, but if you were to ask my
opinion, the answer would be a resounding yes.
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