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March 20, 2006

Free Heath Care Isn't

Name the country with the most evenly distributed quality of health care. Prepare to be surprised.

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.

"This study shows that health care has equal-opportunity defects," said Dr. Donald Berwick, who runs the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.

The survey of nearly 7,000 patients, reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered only urban-area dwellers who sought treatment, but it still challenged some stereotypes: These blacks and Hispanics actually got slightly better medical treatment than whites.

While the researchers 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 chief author Dr. Steven Asch, at the Rand Health research institute, in Santa Monica, Calif. "We all get equally mediocre care."

Well, if we're all getting mediocre care, wonder how good it is in places like Canada, which is supposed to have the liberal dream of "free" health care and yet they keep streaming over the borders to get it here.

This will of course cause great consternation among Democrats who need to continue insist there's a health care "crisis" so they can resurrect HillaryCare(tm). Truth be told, it's not broken so there's no need to fix it.

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.

Blacks and Hispanics as a group each got 58 percent of the best care, compared to 54 percent for whites. Those with annual household income over $50,000 got 57 percent, 4 points more than people from households of less than $15,000. Patients without insurance got 54 percent of recommended steps, just one point less than those with managed care.

Could overall health care in this country do with an improvement? Sure. However, resorting to a socialized system that puts people on waiting lists for years isn't the answer. Would you rather get 55% of what you need now, or get it months down the road (when you'd probably need more care)?

Murphy's Law of the Hospital: "Free" health care isn't.

(Hat tip: JR at Blogger News Network.)

Posted by Doug at March 20, 2006 10:06 PM

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» You want equal health care for all? You got it. from Retrophisch
The bad news, surprise, surprise, is that it’s not as good as we think it is. Jeff Donn, for the AP: Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health care quality suggests that Americans - rich, poor, black, white - get roughly equal... [Read More]

Tracked on March 21, 2006 12:04 AM

» Good news bad news. from BlogWatch
Doug at Stones Cry Out reports that the US is the "country with the most evenly distributed health care". So why Universal Health Care? Perhaps so then the politically connected can get better than average health care?... [Read More]

Tracked on March 21, 2006 10:46 AM

» Morning Gander from Pseudo-Polymath
Lookin’ ’roundabout, here’s some of what I saw. Considering a man’s price his role at Light Along the Journey, from a reflection on the events on 24. Good news bad news. Doug at Stones Cry Out reports that the US is the “... [Read More]

Tracked on March 21, 2006 10:57 AM


Calling our health care system mediocre is the sort of thing only those living in the midst of the most prosperous epoch of history might do. My mother and uncle both have died in the last month after extended serious illnesses, and neither were financially well off in the slightest sense. The health care and medical attention they recieved was incredible, from start to finish. If they are examples of what Dr. Asch means by mediocre care, his statement is overwrought, at best.

Posted by: PDS at March 21, 2006 10:21 AM

Is there a "system" per se'? The term "system" usually brings to my mind some sense of centralized control. Perhaps what we have is better described as a lack-of-system.

Posted by: eLarson at March 22, 2006 07:13 PM