The United States spends $7,290 per person on health care, much more than other developed nations, a study has found.

While political opponents try valiantly to churn up discontent with federal health care reform, a new report shows how much we need it.

The Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that focuses on better health care outcomes, analyzed data from seven nations and ranked the United States last overall and at or near the bottom in every category considered.

When compared with health care systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the United States underperformed in terms of quality of care, access to needed services, efficiency, equity, and the length and quality of citizens’ lives.

Specifically, we do a poor job treating chronic diseases, even though they account for nearly three-fourths of the nation’s health care expenditures. Americans were the most likely to go without services when they got sick. They were far more likely to visit emergency rooms, be re-admitted to hospitals and receive duplicative tests. More Americans died earlier from conditions “amenable” to medical care than citizens of the other nations.

We pay dearly for these dismal results. The United States annually spends $7,290 a person on health care. None of the six other nations spent as much as $4,000 a person.

The study’s authors — experts with extensive credentials in economics and health policy — note that legislation passed by Congress this year addresses some of the problems.

Once the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act phases in, most Americans will have access to medical insurance, regardless of their income or health status.

The legislation also moves the system closer to one that treats chronic diseases better, rewards preventive care and pays for results rather than procedures.

Clearly, our medical system needs to be more efficient and less expensive. This will require investments in technology, a sharp reduction in medical errors and much more of a focus on bringing down costs.

A good first step would be for Republican leaders to cease with the windy talk about repealing health care reform and start working with Democrats on ways to make progress.

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