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OECD Economic Surveys: United States 2008

image of OECD Economic Surveys: United States 2008

This 2008 edition of OECD's periodic survey of the United States economy examines key economic challenges the US will face in the coming years including the financial crisis and health care reform.

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Health care reform

In spite of improvements, on various measures of health outcomes the United States appears to rank relatively poorly among OECD countries. Health expenditures, in contrast, are significantly higher than in any other OECD country. While there are factors beyond the health-care system itself that contribute to this gap in performance, there is also likely to be scope to improve the health of Americans while reducing, or at least not increasing spending. This chapter focuses on two factors that contribute to this discrepancy between health outcomes and health expenditures in the United States: inequitable access to medical services and subsidised private insurance policies; and inefficiencies in public health insurance. It then suggests two sets of reforms likely to improve the US health-care system. The first is a package of reforms to achieve close to universal health insurance coverage. The second set of reforms relates to payment methods and coverage decisions within the Medicare programme to realign incentives and increase the extent of economic evaluation of different medical procedures.

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