Study: US already a laggard on preventable deaths, falling further behind

The U.S. is dead last among 16 high-income countries when it comes to avoiding deaths that could have been prevented with quick access to effective healthcare, according to a new study supported by the Commonwealth Fund. 

The rate of avoidable deaths was 96 per 100,000 in 2006-2007, according to the study, almost twice the 55 per 100,000 rate of leader France. Worse, the U.S. rate declined by only 20 percent since 1997-1998, far slower than the other nations' 31 percent average drop.

The study contradicts critics of European-style universal healthcare systems who claim it would lead to rationing and worse health outcomes.

"This study points to substantial opportunity to prevent premature death in the United States," Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said in a statement. "We spend far more than any of the comparison countries — up to twice as much — yet are improving less rapidly."

The study examined deaths that occurred before age 75 from causes like treatable cancer, diabetes, childhood infections/respiratory diseases and complications from surgeries. It will be published in the November issue of the journal Health Policy.