America Spends Trillions on Health Care — But It’s Not Really Paying Off

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Health Care AmericaAmerica is still the world’s largest spender when it comes to healthcare. According to a recent report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. spends approximately $8,713 per person on health care annually—more than any other country in the world.

Most countries, such as India and Turkey, spend less than $1,000 per person on health care annually. Yet despite the disparity, Americans are still dying 1.7 years earlier than the average citizen from an OECD country. Americans, in fact, have the same life expectancy as the residents of Chile, even though Chile spends one fifth the amount America spends on healthcare.

Included in the health care budgets are salaries for doctors, nurses, and other practitioners, pharmaceutical products, and medical procedures. The pharmaceutical market accounts for the majority of costs, accounting for 20% of the total spending, or approximately $800 billion per year.

America spent 16.4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare. Canada, the tenth highest spender on the OECD list, spends about 10% of its GDP on healthcare costs. But the higher spending doesn’t necessarily pay off. The life expectancy for Americans is only 78.8 years, which ranks at the bottom of all the nations that spend the most on healthcare.

Francesca Colombo, the head of the OECD Health Division, sites other factors that play a role in the health and life expectancy of Americans.

“Higher health sector prices explain much of the difference between the U.S. and other high-spending countries,” Colombo said.

Some experts point to the high obesity rate as a factor with close to 40% of the American population falling under that category. Others, including Colombo, suggest a fractured and “overly complex” healthcare system is the issue, along with the high number of uninsured.

Switzerland, the second highest spender on the OECD list, has a 10% obesity rate and offers universal healthcare. Switzerland also boasts the highest number of nurses per citizen, 17 for every 1,000.

In comparison, America stands as the only OECD country not to offer universal healthcare, although the Affordable Care Act has helped that situation.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“America’s big spending on healthcare doesn’t pay off,” Economist web site, November 16, 2015;
Stebbins, S., et al., “Countries spending the most on healthcare,” USA Today web site, November 14, 2015;