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Health-care "scorecard" shows Americans get raw deal

Health cost headlines
Health cost headlines, a stethosocope and a rising graph paint a grim picture of inflation in the medical world. iStockphoto

(CBS) How healthy is U.S. health-care system? Not very. In a comprehensive new assessment of the system that covers 42 measures of health-care delivery, the U.S. scored 64 out of 100.

"Costs were up sharply, access to care deteriorated, health system efficiency remains low, disparities persisted, and health outcomes failure to keep pace with benchmarks," concluded the authors of the 2011 National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance.

The report was issued by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health-care policy foundation.

When it comes to deaths that could have been prevented by effective medical care, the U.S. ranks dead last among 16 nations. If the U.S. did as well as the top-ranking nation, up to 91,000 premature deaths could be prevented each year.

And preventable deaths weren't the only bad mark on the scorecard, which was based on data from 2007-2009. Other "areas of concern" include:

*Childhood obesity. About one-third of American children 10 to 17 years of age are obese.

*Preventive care. Forty-four percent of adults lacked access to a primary-care physician in 2008, and only half of adults received appropriate preventive care.

*Infant mortality. Rates of infant mortality vary widely across the U.S., but even the best states have rates that are twice as high as those in other countries.

The report does show some bright spots. For example, the proportion of Americans who have their high blood pressure under control rose from 31 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2009. And hospitals are doing a better job of caring for patients with heart attack, pneumonia, and other common conditions.

The authors of the report predicted that the new health-care law will boost access to health care in the U.S. and bring other improvements. But for now, things could be a lot better - and we could be getting a lot more bang for our health-care book.

The U.S. still spends up to twice as much on health care as other wealthy nations, Maureen Bisognano, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a board member of the fund, said in a written statement.

And the authors of the scorecard concluded, ""We are headed toward spending $1 of ever $5 of national income on health care. We should expect a better return on this investment."

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