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January 2, 2013

How and Why US Health Care Differs From That in Other OECD Countries

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford University, Stanford, California.

JAMA. 2013;309(1):33-34. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.125458

United States health care, often hailed as “the best health care system in the world,” is also faulted for being too costly, leaving many millions of individuals uninsured, and having avoidable lapses in quality. Criticism often draws on comparisons with other countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This Viewpoint also makes such comparisons, over a broad range of variables, and reaches one inescapable conclusion—US health care is very different from health care in other countries. Potential reasons for the differences are discussed, leading to the conclusion that future efforts to control cost, provide universal coverage, and improve health outcomes will have to consider the United States' particular history, values, and political system.

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