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U.S. ranks last in healthcare quality

According to the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. spends the most on healthcare, but ranks last in quality

While the United States pays the most for healthcare among all other developed nations, it also ranks last when it comes to the quality of care received compared to 10 other western, industrialized nations.

A report released earlier this month by the Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. came in last overall on measures of health system quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and healthy lives, compared with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

[See also: Commonwealth Fund cites European models for U.S. healthcare reform]

Overall, the U.K. and Switzerland were rated highest for factors that included quality, access, efficiency and equity of healthcare. The U.S., Canada and France overall ranked lowest, according to the report.

The United States’ ranking is lowered by deficiencies in access to primary care and inequities and inefficiencies in the healthcare system, said the report.

According to the report, the U.S. spends $8,508 on healthcare per capita. Norway, which has the second most expensive healthcare system, spends $5,669 per capita. The U.K., which had the highest ranked healthcare system according to the report, spends $3,405 per capita.

[See also: Commonwealth Fund report examines challenges facing doctors internationally]

"Although the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country and has the highest proportion of specialist physicians, survey findings indicate that from the patients' perspective, and based on outcome indicators, the performance of American healthcare is severely lacking," said the report. "The nation's substantial investment in healthcare is not yielding returns in terms of public satisfaction or health outcomes."

The report noted that the U.S. stands apart from other industrialized countries because it does not offer universal health insurance, meaning lower income individuals often don't have sufficient access to healthcare, especially when it comes to preventive medicine.

The authors of the report did note that the Affordable Care Act is extending health insurance to millions in the U.S. and that may help the country make headway in critical areas.