And the survey says...American healthcare is mediocre

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All Americans receive equally mediocre healthcare, regardless of race and economic status, according to a survey of nearly 7,000 patients published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers examined medical records and phone interviews from 6,712 randomly picked patients who visited a medical office within a two-year period in 12 metropolitan areas from Boston to Miami to Seattle.

The survey examined whether people got the highest standard of treatment for 439 measures ranging across common chronic and acute conditions and disease prevention. It looked at whether they got the right tests, drugs and treatments. Overall, patients received only 55 percent of recommended steps for top-quality care and no group did much better or worse than that.

While the researchers acknowledged separate evidence that minorities fare worse in some areas of expensive care and suffer more from some conditions than whites, their study found that once in treatment, minorities' overall care appears similar to that of whites.

Blacks and Hispanics as a group each got 58 percent of the best care, compared to 54 percent for whites. Those with annual household income over $50,000 got 57 percent, 4 points more than people from households of less than $15,000. Patients without insurance got 54 percent of recommended steps, just one point less than those with managed care.