A Healthy Discontent

A new analysis comparing consumer satisfaction with health care coverage in the United States and four countries with nationalized systems found growing levels of dissatisfaction across the board.

The study, published in the May/June issue of Health Affairs, compared U.S. consumers' answers to questions about problems in health care with similar surveys done in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The comparison revealed that while affordability is a greater problem in this country, consumers in the other countries are increasingly unhappy with lengthy waiting periods for treatment and what they see as insufficient government spending.

The growing dissatisfaction abroad was reflected most starkly in the fact that while 56 percent of Canadians a decade ago believed that only minor changes were needed in their health care system, only 20 percent felt that way at the time of the latest survey. Still, residents of the other countries were not as likely as Americans to go without carewhen they needed it.

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO REPORTED:

Going without needed medical care in the past 12 months:

Australia 8

Canada 10

New Zealand 12

United Kingdom 10

United States 14

Having problems paying medical bills in the past year:

Australia 10

Canada 5

New Zealand 15

United Kingdom 3

United States 18

Not filling a prescription because they could not afford it:

Australia 12

Canada 7

New Zealand 15

United Kingdom 6

United States 17

SOURCE: Commonwealth Fund 1998 International Health Policy Survey