A MIDDLE-AGED man felt chest pains. As an executive at IBM, an information-technology firm, he had excellent health insurance, so he went straight to a specialist. His cardiologist put him through a bunch of tests, including a computerized tomography scan. A radiologist noticed something odd in his neck, so he went to a neck surgeon, who checked him out and found nothing. He went back to the cardiologist, who gave him an angiogram, which caused dangerous complications and landed him in hospital for a while. In all, he ran up more than $150,000 in medical expenses before the chest pains disappeared on their own.
When they reappeared several months later, he spoke to Paul Grundy, the head of health-care technology at IBM. Dr Grundy, a doctor of preventive medicine by training, asked him if his lifestyle had changed recently. The executive mentioned that he had taken up gardening again. Dr Grundy quickly established that his chest pains sprang from a muscle he had strained through overzealous weed-whacking. …
Such stories are all too common. Americans will spend a staggering $2.5 trillion on health care in 2009, says the Congressional Budget Office. As a share of national income that is far more than other rich countries spend, despite America’s slightly younger population. To say that Americans do not get value for money is putting it mildly. They live no longer than Europeans and die younger than the Japanese. Meanwhile, 46m of them lack health insurance.
For the rest of this great article please see the Economist website here.