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ACP offers recommendations for U.S. health care system based on review of other countries

ACP offers suggestions to reform the U.S. health care in “Achieving a High Performance Health Care System with Universal Access: What the USA Can Learn from Other Countries,” a new evidence-based paper published in the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. The paper was developed by ACP's Health and Public Policy Committee and approved by the Board of Regents in October, 2007. The paper reflects comments received on an earlier draft from members of the Board of Governors, Board of Regents, ACP Councils, and selected expert advisors.

The paper outlines the ills plaguing the American health care system and proposes evidence-based recommendations addressing each of them, based on findings of a review of 12 industrialized countries. The paper concludes that the current U.S. health care system—which involves multiple payers without guaranteed coverage (pluralistic model) results in the U.S. lagging behind other countries on access, quality and efficiency of care. The paper proposes two different pathways to achieve universal coverage: a pluralistic system with universal coverage or a single payer system. Rather then endorsing either pathway, the ACP calls on the public and policymakers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. For instance, the paper reports that single payer systems perform well on most measures of quality, satisfaction, access, and administrative costs, but are more likely to result in shortages of services subject to price controls and waiting lists for elective procedures. Pluralistic models with universal coverage do better on giving individuals the freedom to purchase additional services, but less well on measures of equity (access without regard to ability to pay) and administrative costs.

To improve the quality of care, ACP recommends building incentives into the system for both patients and physicians, redirecting federal health care policy toward supporting a patient-centered medical home model of care, and developing a national workforce policy to ensure an adequate supply of physicians. To improve administrative cost and burden, ACP recommends creating a uniform billing system for all services, supporting HIT infrastructure with federal funds, and encouraging public and private investment in medical research.

For links to the paper and other related resources, visit the ACP Web site.

Back to December 2007 Issue of IMpact

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