In the recent working paper – Mortality Amenable to Health Care in 31 OECD Countries: Estimates and Methodological Issues – a number of researchers are using a new index of quality, (the aforementioned “mortality amenable to health care”) that to us gets to the crux of the matter. And while the index is complicated to calculate, it’s fairly easy to understand. It’s simply the portion of the population (adjusted for age) who die each year from a long list of potentially curable diseases – everything from breast cancer to peptic ulcers. Thus, for example, in 2007, 79 people out of every 100,000 died unnecessarily in Greece; the comparable number for the Czech Republic was 125.
So, how’s the United States doing?
Not so well. The US placed 24th (just behind Chile and just ahead of Portugal) among the 31 countries that are members of the OECD. France, the leader by this measure of quality, had a bit more than half as many unnecessary deaths. Wait, there’s more bad news: Between 1997 and 2007, the index for the United States improved by just 1.8 percent – which puts us in a race with Mexico for the least improved among OECD countries. (Ireland won the “most improved” crown, reducing unnecessary mortality by 5.5 percent.)