It's easy to criticize the U.S. health care system for high spending and poor outcomes, but American patients may also be the problem, the Atlantic's David Freedman writes.
What's happening: One study found that 74% of the variation in life expectancy within the U.S. was attributable to lifestyle factors like smoking and inactivity — behaviors decided by patients, not doctors. And American patients don't like to be told they can't have expensive care, using more speciality care and emergency care than other countries.
- A survey of 1,000 patients recently found that only 31% view cost as very important when making a health care decision.
- Other countries often exclude expensive, unproven treatments from health coverage, but "when American insurance companies try this approach, they invariably run into a buzz saw of public outrage," Freedman writes.
The bottom line: Americans are often over-treated, but doctors say that's because patients demand it — and that they fear malpractice lawsuits.
- And then there are patients who disregard what their doctors say — like failing to take their prescribed medication.