The 2014 Commonwealth Fund survey found that the United States ranks lowest when it comes to quality and efficiency of healthcare systems among 11 industrialized countries.
The healthcare system of the United States has been a topic of heated debate in the last decade but its performance has always remained consistent, ranking worst among industrialized countries for the fifth time. It was also the case in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010. The United Kingdom was ranked as the best while Switzerland followed closely behind. The researchers also studied Australia, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden.
The report said the United States spent $8,508 on healthcare per person in 2011 but the United Kingdom only spent $3,406 per person even as it ranked higher in providing quality and safe healthcare than the U.S. All other 10 nations spend a lot less than the U.S. healthcare per person and as a gross domestic product but still achieved better quality.
So let’s sum up: most expensive, lousy results, and as the article goes on to state, the results would be even worse but for the fact a significant and substantial percentage of Americans simply opt out of any healthcare whatsoever.
Where does all that money go, then, if not into patient care?
Believe it or not, right into the ground, if we are to believe a study by US News and World Reports:
Over the past year, “the profit margin for health insurance companies was a modest 3.4 percent,” Newman points out, quoting data provided by Morningstar, a company that rates mutual funds. Morningstar would have no reason to low-ball the insurance industry’s profits; its readers are looking for highly profitable sectors of the economy where they can invest. But the health plan industry is not one of those sectors: insurers ranks 87th out of 215 industries.
“The most profitable industry over the past year has been beverages, with a 25.9 percent profit margin,” Newman reports, “Right behind that were healthcare real-estate trusts (firms that are basically the landlords for hospitals and healthcare facilities) and application-software (think Windows). The average for the oil and gas industry overall was 10.2 percent, three times the margin in the health insurance industry.
But those insurance company profits are slightly masked by the fact they are net profits, after things like, ohhhhhhhhh, executive salaries and bonuses, and who knows what other hidden little benefits.
Now, drug companies are not a whole lot better but at least they serve a purpose. For instance, Amgen earned about a 30% profit, but this is after credits for R&D and amortization of drug development costs against the revenue they generate. No one is suggesting they should stop doing vital research or get some premium profit for saving lives.
Which is something insurance companies create obstacles to: saving lives. They are our death panels. They are our “just say no” brigade.
This is the scenario Republicans want to take us back to: sticking our healthcare dollars into the ground under hospitals and clinics, rather than use them to save lives.