Monday, April 30, 2007
Kevin Drum highlights a review by Phil Longman of Sick,
Jon Cohn's new book about America's rather inefficient and expensive healthcare system. Longman disagrees with Cohn's conclusion that the main problem with our health care system is money. Longman believes that "Money can't really be
our core problem, he says, since the evidence indicates that the more
you spend, the worse your treatment is likely to be:"
According to a recent RAND study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, uninsured patients receive only 53.7 percent of the care experts believe they should get — that is, appropriate, evidence-based treatment. But according to the same study, patients with private, fee-for-service insurance are even less likely to receive the proper care. Indeed, among Americans receiving acute care, those who lack insurance stand a slightly better chance of receiving proper treatment than patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or any form of private insurance.
....[Dr. Elliot Fisher] found that in America's highest-spending hospitals, only 74.8 percent of heart attack victims receive aspirin upon discharge from the hospital, as opposed to 83.5 percent in lower-budget competitors. This may be one reason why survival rates for heart attack victims are actually higher in low-spending hospitals than in high-spending hospitals.
What's more, these spendthrift hospitals often skip other routine preventative care such as flu vaccines, Pap smears, and mammograms. This general lack of attention to prevention and follow-up care in high-spending hospitals helps to explain why not only heart attack victims but also patients suffering from colon cancer and hip fractures stand a better chance of living longer if they stay away from "elite" hospitals and choose a lower-cost provider instead. Given this reality, it is perhaps not surprising that patient satisfaction also declines as a hospital's spending per patient rises.
Longman has his own book to sell, entitled, "Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Care is Better than Yours?"
Perhaps the answer to all of our health care problems is contained in one of these books. For the New York Times Book Review of "Sick" click here.