Short Takes On News & Events

Report: U.S. Outspends Other Countries On Health Care

By Julie Appleby

November 23rd, 2011, 5:49 AM

We’re No. 1. In health spending.  Again.

The United States far outpaces other countries in how much it spends on health care, although Americans have a lower rate of doctor visits and hospitalizations than most of the other 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In its Health at a Glance 2011 report, out today, the OECD shows that the United States spent about $7,960 per person on health care in 2009 – about 2.5 times the average of the countries studied.  It also found that health spending in the U.S. has increased faster than in all other high-income OECD countries since 1970, even accounting for population growth.

Why? Generally, prices for medical care are higher in the U.S. – and some services are performed more often. Hospital prices are 60 percent higher than the average of 12 selected OECD countries, and the U.S. also generally pays more for each appendectomy, birth, joint replacement or cardiac procedure.  Americans have more imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, than residents of other countries and are far more likely to have knee replacements, coronary angioplasty or surgery to remove their tonsils.

Even with all that, compared with most of the other developed countries, the U.S. has fewer practicing physicians per person, fewer hospital beds, and patients don’t stay as long in the hospital.

Administrative costs in the U.S. are also high, the report notes, accounting for about 7 percent of total spending.  That is roughly comparable to what is spent in France and Germany, which have universal health coverage. In Canada — another country with national health care – administrative costs are about 4 percent of health spending.

So what are Americans getting for their money? The U.S. has the best five-year survival rate for breast cancer and comes in second, behind Japan, in terms of colorectal cancer survival.  But the U.S. ranks 27th in life expectancy at birth, 31st in premature mortality, and 25th in the rate of cardiovascular mortality. The U.S. has the second worst rate of adult diabetes, behind Mexico, and has the highest rate of adult obesity, at 34 percent.

7 Responses to “Report: U.S. Outspends Other Countries On Health Care”

  1. David says:

    RE: Report: U.S. Outspends Other Countries On Health Care

    Yet, over 50 million Americans are uninsured. Another estimated 25 million Americans are underinsured. Yes, America offers the best health care in the world, if you can afford it.

  2. snewsom2997 says:

    The people who pay pay more and get less, the people that don’t pay nothing and get something. As long as a sizable portion of the people pay nothing for healthcare, everybody who does pay will have to pay more. The only way to get the cost down, is to stop creating artificial demand, artificial demand created by the federal and state government through, medicare, medicaid, and the laws that allow people to go to the ER’s for free. One way or another you healthcare will be rationed, it will be rations by the money in your wallet, it will be rations by some Insurance administrator, it will be rationed by some government functionary, or it will be rationed by some board of administrators at the hospital. SO choose who you to to ration your care, you or someone else.

  3. Larry Gagnon says:

    The raw statistics given in this article may be very misleading. How many of the other countries have a “justice” system that allows people who are unhappy with medical care to sue for actual damages plus damages for “pain and suffering” plus “punitive” damages? Every doctor is forced to send patients for almost-certainly-unnecessary tests because the doctor has such great potential liability.
    How many other countries have significant numbers of people who claim poverty and use ERs as general practitioners?
    How much is spent on pills for the average american versus the other countries. I know several people who get pills almost free (insurance, medicare, medicaid) and could reduce the number of pills if they would lose some weight.
    We may have won the silver medal in diabetes but I wager that we win the gold in obesity.

  4. David says:

    Rationed care? Bring it on! At least rationed care is something! I’m sure the 50 million plus Americans with no health care insurance and the 25 million more who are underinsured would love to at least have something, even if it’s rationed. If these unfortunate people can’t afford the outrageously expensive cancer surgery that they need, maybe they could at least get something for the pain while they wait to die, huh?

  5. Jason says:

    When 25% of the US population does not have access to a primary care physician who can care and provide for preventive services and take care of issues before they get complicated, so that when they do develop complicated problems they end up where care is most accessible, and often subsidized, in emergency rooms, where an average cost of a visit is $1000 compared to a primary care office visit of $76, why should these figures be surprising to anyone?

    When we have a system that incentivizes use of expensive procedures and services rather than incentivizing wellness and quality care, why is any of this surprising? Our system does not pay unless someone gets sick. We are paying for people to get sick. If we can change the system to incentivize wellness rather than illness, costs will go down.

  6. PAUL says:

    Docs paid less which is why they bust the doors to get here. 30, 50 million uninsured – baloney. Most people insured most of the time; they go in and out of the system. Medical trips to Thailand from UK. Many countries do not have near the illegals. And on and on. For you control freaks: talk to your state insurance commissar. He’s the one who decides minimum insurance benefits. Now the big Czar will do it for you.

  7. David says:

    Decaf really works! Maybe it’s time to make the switch?