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US lags behind other nations in healthcare, study says

WASHINGTON -- Americans pay more when they get sick than people in other Western nations and receive more confused, error-prone treatment, according to the largest survey to compare US healthcare with that of other nations.

The survey of nearly 7,000 ill adults in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain, and Germany found Americans were the most likely to pay at least $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. More than half went without needed care because of cost, the survey found, and more than a third endured mistakes and disorganized care.

While patients in every nation sometimes run into obstacles to getting care and deficiencies in treatment, the United States stood out for having the highest error rates, most disorganized care, and highest costs, the survey found.

''What's striking is that we are clearly a world leader in how much we spend on health care," said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president for The Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan, nonprofit foundation in New York that commissioned the survey. ''Clearly, we should be doing better."

Other specialists agreed, saying the results offer the most recent evidence that the quality of care delivered by the US healthcare system is seriously eroding even as health care costs skyrocket.

''This provides confirming evidence for what more and more health policy thinkers have been saying, which is, 'The American health care system is quietly imploding, and it's about time we did something about it,' " said Lucian Leape, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

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