US Health-Care System Ranked Last In Survey, But Will Obamacare Help?

A new study from a pro-Obamacare nonprofit finds that before the health-care law, the U.S. health-care system ranked last among 11 developed nations, but the health-care law may not help fix the problem.

According to data from 2011-2013, the U.S. is the worst of eleven countries when it comes to health-care costs, efficiency, equity and healthy lives, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

The report found that Obamacare could help improve the U.S. health-care system primarily by improving health information technology. The health-care law requires medical providers to switch over to a more digitized system and provides incentives to do so.

According to a Monday report from Politico, however, top physicians including the pro-Obamacare American Medical Association are asking the Obama administration to back off due to inefficiency in the new system and little proof of savings or improvements.

While health-care technology may improve, Obamacare may be unlikely to help other key triggers of the U.S.’s low ranking.

In 2011, the U.S. spent the most per capita on health care at $8,508 (the best is the U.K.’s government-run health-care system at $3,405 per person). It’s not surprising, then, that the survey ranked the U.S. lowest in “equity” — equal health care for the rich and the poor. Putting aside price controls in many of the ranked countries that have led to drug shortages, it’s likely Obamacare will worsen both of these problems.

The Affordable Care Act drastically expands Medicaid and provides premium subsidies for some low-income Americans, increasing health coverage, as the Commonwealth Fund notes, but boosted health costs are likely to prevent low-income Americans from getting health-care services, even if they have coverage.

Obamacare is increasing both monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs, for those in and out of Obamacare exchanges.

With higher deductibles and co-pays, low-income Americans may be less likely to seek medical care at additional cost than those with higher income, worsening any problems with health-care equity. (RELATED: Report: Obamacare Benefits Healthier College Grads Most)

That’s all while limiting choice. In the post-Obamacare health-care system, U.S. insurers are now trying to rid Americans of their pesky “choice habit.” The health-care law moved Americans toward narrower medical networks, limiting provider preferences for many Obamacare exchange customers, and experts are warning that the shift will soon permeate the private insurance market as well. (RELATED: Insurer: Obamacare Customers Must Break ‘Choice Habit’)

The U.S. system also lags behind when it comes to primary care doctors — a problem Obamacare doesn’t help and may even exacerbate.

There’s a lack of access to primary care doctors and little communication between the general physicians and specialists or emergency doctors, according to the report. However, the U.S. also has some of the best access to specialized medical care.

According to the survey, Americans have the third-lowest wait time to see a specialist and are second only to Sweden for the time it takes to receive treatment after a diagnosis.

In the past, vast expansions of Medicaid patients have lead to higher rates of ER usage for common ailments that should be treated by a primary care physician or similar doctor. Emergency rooms have already seen a boost in volume since Obamacare coverage went into action, and physicians fear that it will lead to a lower quality of care.

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