U.S. Spends More on Health Care Than Other Developed Countries
The U.S. spends far more than other developed nations on health care but ranks lower on quality and general population health, according to a study released Wednesday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Reuters reports.
According to the report, which looked at 34 countries in OECD, U.S. health spending is more than $7,900 per person annually (Morgan, Reuters, 11/23).
Findings on Health Spending
The U.S. spends more than two-and-a-half times the average health spending of OECD nations (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 11/23). In addition, health spending in the U.S. is 62% higher than it is in Switzerland, which has similar per capita income and also relies heavily on private health insurance (Reuters, 11/23).
Meanwhile, the U.S. spends about 17.4% of its gross domestic product on health care, while other OECD nations spend an average of 9.6% of their GDPs on health care. According to CQ HealthBeat, Medicare and Medicaid make up more of the GDP in the U.S. than public insurance programs do in other countries (CQ HealthBeat, 11/23).
Care Quality, Population Health
U.S. residents are more likely to die earlier than residents of similar industrialized nations, according to the report. Mark Pearson, head of the OECD health division, said health care quality is related to mortality rates and the population's lifestyle and habits (Reuters, 11/23).
Life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.2 years in 2009, slightly below the average of 79.5 years among the 34 OECD countries (Sanger-Katz, National Journal, 11/23). According to the report, with more than one-third of the population considered obese, the U.S. has the highest obesity rate.
In addition, the U.S. has high rates of avoidable hospital admissions for people with chronic conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, diabetes and hypertension, the report noted.
Primary Care System, Medical Costs
OECD also said the U.S. has an "underdeveloped" primary care system worsened by physician shortages (Reuters, 11/23). There are 2.4 physicians for every 1,000 people in the U.S., compared with an average of 3.1 in other countries. In addition, there are 3.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people in the U.S., compared with 4.9 per 1,000 in other countries (CQ HealthBeat, 11/23).
Physician fees in the U.S. are more than double the average fees among OECD nations, while costs for medications and hospital services cost about 60% more in the U.S. than the average. Certain procedures, including MRI scans and knee replacement surgeries, also have higher-than-average costs in the U.S. The report found that U.S. patients face higher prices for care but do not necessarily spend more time in the hospital than patients in other OECD countries (National Journal, 11/23).
Positive Findings for U.S.
The report noted that the U.S. does well in providing cancer care and that cancer patients have very high survival rates. In addition, U.S. residents are less likely to die from stroke.
Smoking rates also have dropped significantly in the U.S. compared with other countries (National Journal, 11/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.