HIGH COSTS: Spending Fails to Improve U.S. Health
Health care costs in the United States are twice as high as those in other industrialized nations, but comparatively lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates, among other indicators, suggest Americans may not receive better health care as a result, according to research published in today's Health Affairs. In 1998, a total of $4,270 was spent per person on health care in the United States -- roughly 14% of the gross domestic product-compared to an average of $2,000 per person, or 8% of their GDPs, among the 23 countries comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But patients in the United States are treated sooner than patients in other OECD countries, and America boasts the world's highest breast cancer survival rate, though it is only slightly higher than rates in Japan, Australia and Sweden. Similarly, both the United States and Canada have seen drops in mortality after heart attacks, but America spends far more to get such outcomes. Lead researchers Gerard Anderson of Johns Hopkins and Jeremy Hurst of the OECD cited the prevalence of new medical technologies and a higher ratio of caregivers per patient in America as reasons for the country's high health costs.
Higher Spending, Happier Patients?
Another survey published in Health Affairs suggests higher health care spending does not necessarily yield more satisfied patients. Elderly patients in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain report being as satisfied with health care in their countries as senior citizens in the United States. The survey also showed 90% of elderly British patients made no out-of-pocket payments for prescription drugs, compared to just 20% of elderly U.S. patients. However, authors noted higher health care spending in the United States may generate less evident benefits, and called for further analysis ( Agence France-Press/Nando Times, 5/7).