The 19 countries, in order of best to worst, were: France, Japan, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Some countries showed dramatic improvement in the periods studied -- 1997 and 1998 and again between 2002 and 2003 -- outpacing the United States, which showed only slight improvement.
This is a hot button topic among both halves of my family and with my in-laws. They believe the pablum that we have the best health care in the world because we spend the most. This reinforced with a few Canadians they've met who have spouted the 'people die waiting for chemo' line that is about as true as Regan's 'welfare queen'. But we're not the best. Sure we may have advanced technologies or education, but what good does that do when it can't benefit the most people? Too many in this country can't afford health care and if they can, and they use it, they go bankrupt. How can this be best for society? I racked up $250k in medical bills in 2002 when I had AML. We had to pay around $5k and insurance covered the rest. We had good health insurance. But I can't get my own policy now as an individual because, since I've had cancer, I'm high risk and no company will insure me individually, I can only get insurance through a group policy (and even then, the company that managed my old employer's health insurance tried to get me dropped which is against the law). When I was 20, I had a kidney stone, it was large and had to be removed because it was stuck. $25k in medical bills. I was a student and I had no insurance and no money. I couldn't afford the medical bills. Luckily MN at the time had MNCare, a superset state program that rode on top of other gov't aid like Medicare. It covered me, it helped me pay my medical bills, and have other things done that I couldn't afford such as getting my teeth checked and my eyes checked (and help me buy new glasses). How it worked was you applied for it and if you met the criteria, it would cover you for six months. When I was even younger my family was below the poverty line. We relied on MNCare to help us with medical problems, such as the time I was hit in the head near the temple with a baseball and had a concussion. This was 20 years ago, we had better health coverage (and backup emergency health care aid) than we do now in 2008. I think most people want health care coverage, one that covers all. But many people in this country are greedy or don't want to pay the taxes for the common good of all (yes we would need to pay taxes to fund a socialized medical program). This really isn't that different from other services that benefit all and are in fact socialized, such as police, fire departments, education, Social Security. Why are we so hung up on this benefit to society?
A good example of something that became better when it became a social service was the fire department. Once upon a time fire departments were private companies and you bought coverage from them. This meant if a fire started in your neighborhood and spread, many or no fire departments would respond based on who had coverage. And if they did respond, they would only help those who had their coverage, the rest would burn. This is a good analogy for our health care and why we should have it socialized. Why sit and watch your neighbors house burn, when a system that saves all the houses could exist?