The usual excuse, from mainstream economists and politicians, that the U.S. healthcare system should remain mostly in for-profit, private hands is because the outcomes of that system make it the best in the world.
But a new study (published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) of the burden of diseases, injuries, and leading risk factors in the United States from 1990 to 2010 in comparison to the other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries reveals a quite different story.
So how did we do compare to other countries? Not particularly well. Between 1990 and 2010, among the 34 countries in the OECD, the United States dropped from 18th to 27th in the age-standardized death rate. The United States dropped from 23rd to 28th for age-standardized years of life lost. It dropped from 20th to 27th in life expectancy at birth. It dropped from 14th to 26th for healthy life expectancy. The only bit of good news was that the United States only dropped from 5th to 6th in years lived with disability.
In other words, the United States spends the most per capita on health care across all countries and falls below the mean for all OECD countries on most indicators. As we can see in the chart below, the United States has lots of red (higher than the mean), a bit of yellow (close to the mean), and only one green (lower than the mean).
What the study demonstrates is the U.S. healthcare system is not designed to produce the best health outcomes for the population but, instead, to produce healthy profits for the private insurers and providers on which the system is based.