Medicare falls behind other countries in providing great care

Policymakers may think elderly Americans should be satisfied with their Medicare coverage, but, according to new research from the Commonwealth Fund, they come in last place when compared to senior healthcare in 10 other countries.

Medicare, which provides health insurance for more than 55 million U.S. adults aged 65 or older, “looks pretty tarnished” next to the insurance options offered to seniors in other countries, NBC News reported.

Researchers at the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that routinely conducts investigations comparing the U.S. healthcare system with those overseas, interviewed nearly 23,000 seniors across 11 countries.

This is what they found, according to NBC:

  • U.S. seniors are the sickest, struggle the most to meet basic needs and are least likely to afford necessary healthcare, but their health coverage is the poorest of the 11 countries studied.
  • In the other regions analyzed for this research, seniors faced lower cost sharing and a “stronger safety net” when it came to insurance.
  • In most wealthy countries with universal healthcare, patients over 65 years old don’t pay at all to see a doctor. That’s far from true in the U.S. and keeps many seniors from visiting a doctor when they may need to.
  • Americans were far more likely to be “high needs” than seniors in Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada and Australia.
  • In the past year, 23 percent of U.S. seniors didn’t go to the doctor when they were sick, failed to fill a prescription, missed a medication dose or forewent a recommended medical test or treatment due to high costs. In France, Norway, Sweden and the U.K., no more than 5 percent of elderly people did the same.
  • Around 22 percent of U.S. seniors spent $2,000 or more out-of-pocket for healthcare in the past year, compared to 10 percent of people in the other studied countries. Only the Swiss spent more.

“We have crappy outcomes for a huge price tag,” Peter Lipson, an internal medicine specialist in Michigan, told NBC. “We do all kinds of stuff that doesn’t really work that’s expensive. We are wasting a ton of money and probably not helping people.”

Read more on NBC News.