The Commonwealth Fund has published another survey of health care across countries. The Commonwealth Fund’s widely reported surveys, while thorough, are frustrating because they invoke abstractions (for example “universal health insurance coverage“) to explain why the U.S. health system underperforms.
The latest survey should be able to get around this problem because it surveys only people aged 65 years and older in 11 developed countries. Because almost all American seniors are on Medicare — a single-payer, government-run program that is mostly funded by taxpayers — we might expect the Commonwealth Fund to find that the U.S performs about as well as other countries.
No such luck. Kaiser Health News featured the survey’s conclusions about the challenges American seniors have, relative to their peers in other countries, in getting access to care:
Americans older than 65 are more likely to have chronic illnesses and to say they struggle to afford health care — despite qualifying for the federal Medicare program — than are seniors in other industrialized countries, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.
The media often manage to pluck criticisms of U.S. health care out of the Commonwealth Fund surveys that are not quite as straightforward in the reports themselves as they appear in the stories about the reports. This case is no exception.