Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, published a rant on the U.S. health care system in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week.
"Many no longer believe the United States has the best health care system in the world. The statistics are damning. The United States has the most expensive system, by far. In 2005 health care cost more than $6000 per person or in excess of 16% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The nearest rival, Switzerland, spends $4077 per person per year, or 11.5% of its GDP (in purchasing power parity). Norway spends $3966 (9.7% of GDP); Germany, $3043 (10.6% of GDP); and South Korea, a mere $1149 (8.2% of GDP). However, Americans are increasingly aware that all of this money is not buying very much. Life expectancy in the United States is 78 years, ranking 45th in the world, well behind Switzerland, Norway, Germany, and even Greece, Bosnia, and Jordan. The US infant mortality rate is 6.37 per 1000 live births, higher than almost all other developed countries, as well as Cuba. Even for white individuals, the numbers are not world class—5.7 infant deaths per 1000 live births—more than double the rate in Singapore, Sweden, and Japan. Even at the individual hospital level, Americans are realizing the care they receive is not of the highest quality. The idea put forth in the Institute of Medicine report To Err Is Human that 100 000 Americans die each year from medication errors in the hospital has taken hold in the public consciousness as emblematic of the problems with the quality of health care.
Furthermore, Americans are becoming aware that in such an unreliable system even money cannot guarantee outstanding care.
...Increasingly, Americans are beginning to be skeptical about whether new health care technologies are better. The tipping point probably came with the withdrawal of rofecoxib from the US market. Today, the list of drugs and technologies for which new might not be better (and may be even worse) has expanded rapidly: postmenopausal hormone therapy, bare-metal stents, megadose antioxidants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for adolescents, Swan-Ganz catheters, gabapentin for bipolar disorder, erythropoietin for anemia, and the list goes on."