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ACP Article Proposes Fixes for U.S. Health System

Other nations' systems offer lessons for US, including greater supply of primary care physicians

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the high quality of health care and the latest medical technology that is available to Americans with adequate insurance coverage or financial means, the United States could learn many lessons from the positive attributes of health care systems in other nations, according to a three-part article developed for the Health and Public Policy Committee of the American College of Physicians (ACP) and published online Dec. 4 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The paper posits that one issue of concern in the U.S. system is a shortage of primary-care physicians that will reduce health care quality in coming years as it worsens. In most other highly regarded health care systems, primary care occupies a central role, which is associated with lower mortality rates and fewer health disparities.

The authors make a number of recommendations, including: universal access to a primary care physician and a "medical home" for coordinated care; universal health coverage for preventive and primary health care services and medical catastrophes; a national policy to provide for an adequate supply of primary care physicians; and better use of technology to assure greater efficiency.

"Successful national health care systems have taken many routes to paying for health care, but they share one essential characteristic: The government guarantees that every citizen will have health insurance. They have solved a problem that grows worse every day in the United States. Why do Americans tolerate a system that leaves one sixth of its citizens with poor access to basic medical care? When will we elect leaders who will erase this stain on our national character?" asks journal editor Harold C. Sox, M.D., in an accompanying editorial.

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