(Reuters) - France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday.
If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year, according to researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs.
Researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tracked deaths that they deemed could have been prevented by access to timely and effective health care, and ranked nations on how they did.
They called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of a country's health care system.
Nolte said the large number of Americans who lack any type of health insurance -- about 47 million people in a country of about 300 million, according to U.S. government estimates -- probably was a key factor in the poor showing of the United States compared to other industrialized nations in the study.
"I wouldn't say it (the last-place ranking) is a condemnation, because I think health care in the U.S. is pretty good if you have access. But if you don't, I think that's the main problem, isn't it?" Nolte said in a telephone interview.