Older Americans Were Sicker and Faced More Financial Barriers to Health Care Than Counterparts in Other Countries

The U.S. spends far more on its health care system but achieves poorer outcomes than any other developed country. This unfortunate fact is true for all patients regardless of age, including older Americans.


An international survey of older adults finds that seniors in the United States are sicker than their counterparts in 10 other high-income countries and face greater financial barriers to health care, despite the universal coverage that Medicare provides. Across all the countries, few elderly adults discuss mental health concerns with their primary care providers. Moreover, nearly a quarter are considered “high need” — meaning they have three or more chronic conditions or require help with basic tasks of daily living.

The Issue

Aging populations present challenges to health care systems around the world. Writing in Health Affairs, the Commonwealth Fund’s Robin Osborn and colleagues report findings from the 2017 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults — the 20th in a series. The survey focuses on the challenges that adults 65 and older face in 11 countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

– The Commonwealth Fund

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