You get what you pay for is usually an accurate response to something with inferior quality, but not in the case of healthcare in the United States. A recent comprehensive study done by the Commonwealth Fund reveals surprising data about several aspects of healthcare in the U.S. compared to other high-income countries. In a nutshell, Americans have been duped. Out of 13 high-income countries including England, Australia, Japan, and Canada, the research found that the U.S. spends the most money on healthcare and the least on social services. Here are the most startling findings:
The average U.S. resident spent $1,074 for out-of-pocket expenses for health care. Click To Tweet
As of 2013, the U.S. spent 17.1% of its GDP on healthcare, which was 50% more than the next highest spender, France. At 8.8%, the UK was the lowest spender.
- The average U.S. resident spent $1,074 for out-of-pocket expenses for health care, ranking second behind the Swiss.
- Though the U.S. was spending $4,197 per capita, only about 34% of residents were covered by public programs. On the other hand, despite all residents having universal health coverage, the UK was spending almost half per capita as the U.S.
- Health care prices in the U.S. are generally more expensive than in other countries. For example, the average cost of bypass surgery in the U.S. is $75,345 whereas, in Australia it costs more than $30,000 less. Data also showed that MRI and CT scans cost the most in the U.S.
As of 2013, the U.S. spent 17.1% of its GDP on health care. Click To Tweet
Ironically, even though Americans were spending more than any other country, they ranked in the lowest 50% for hospital and physician visits per capita (4 visits per capita).
- Japan ranked number one in physician visits with 12.9 visits per capita.
Top Consumers of Tech and Pharmaceuticals
The U.S. and Japan ranked as the top consumers of diagnostic imaging technology and Americans spent the most on MRI, CT, and PET exams per capita. The U.S. and New Zealand tied as top consumers of prescriptions drugs.
Poorest Quality of Health
Despite significantly more spending on technology and health care services, the study revealed Americans have poorer health than the other international participants.
- The U.S. had the lowest life expectancy at birth rate.
- The U.S. ranks highest in infant mortality.
- Ranked highest, one-third of Americans are obese. That’s 15% more than the next highest country, New Zealand.
- Unfortunately, the Institute of Medicine found that even Americans who were non-smoking and non-obese still had poorer health than those in other countries. A number of factors such as insurance status, lifestyle, environment, and rates of accidents and violence were taken into account.
- Americans are among the highest mortality rates of heart disease and one of the top three countries to experience high rates of lower extremity amputations from diabetes.
What does this mean for you?
The alarming statistics presented show us the majority of U.S. health care spending isn’t being attributed directly to routine patient care, but rather advanced medical technologies and higher health care service prices. For a country that doesn’t even make the top ten healthiest countries in the world, it appears we are spending the most on health care. “A growing body of evidence suggests that social services play an important role in shaping health trajectories and mitigating health disparities.” The U.S. may have to stop throwing their money at sophisticated technologies and prescription drugs and focus more on improving the social health of the population. Actions like the Affordable Care Act suggest the government is attempting to change the situation. Will it improve the U.S’s rankings? Time will tell.