U.S. Healthcare by Numbers

Above is the headline from a March 27, 2012 Reuters article reporting on a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, from Paris, which ranked the health standards of its 34 members in a report, “Health at a Glance 2011 – OECD Indicators.” The OECD report, released in November 2011, compared a number of health statistics of various countries including the United States.

In the Reuters story, the statistics comparing the United States were featured and brought to light some of the glaring shortfalls of the U.S. healthcare system. Not surprisingly, the U.S. spends more than any other nation in the study at a current level of $2.6 trillion dollars in 2011. This equates to $8,402 for every man, woman and child in this nation. This amount represents 17.9 percent of U.S. annual gross domestic product, and is growing at a faster rate than the other nations in the study.

For the staggering amount of money spent on healthcare in the U.S., many of the health indicators in the OECD report place the U.S. far down the list when compared to other nations. Some of the highlighted indicators for the U.S. healthcare system are as follows:

  • The U.S. is first in obesity with 34 percent of the population being considered obese. Additionally, since 1990, this number has increased from 23 percent in 1990 and up from 15% in 1980. The U.S. also ranked second worst in obesity for children ages 5 -17.
  • The U.S. ranks 28th in life expectancy with an average of 78.2 years as of 2011. In contrast Japan ranks number one where the life expectancy is 83 years.
  • The U.S. ranks 31st in infant mortality rates with 6.5 deaths per 1000 live births. In this area, the U.S. also showed a very slow improvement over the previous 40 years showing only a 2.6 percent improvement which was the third worst improvement in this area among the nations in the study.
  • The U.S. ranks second in the prevalence of diabetes. The OECD report showed that 10.8 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 29 and 70 suffers from either type 1 or 2 diabetes.

One very interesting fact brought out by the OECD report is that, in spite of the facts of the study, Americans rate their own health as highest among the people in the nations studied. The study showed that over 90 percent of Americans consider themselves to be in good health compared to an average of 69.1 percent for all nations in the OECD study.

The OECD report also compared the health care insurance coverage of the nations in the study. The U.S. ranked fourth lowest in coverage of their population with only 81.3 percent of the population being covered by health care insurance provided either by private or government programs. Most of the nations in the study, totaling 20, offer complete governmental coverage for their citizens. The U.S. ranks the lowest in governmental coverage with only 26.4 percent of the population being covered by public insurance. The next lowest country for governmental insurance coverage for its citizens is Chile which covers 73.5 percent of their citizens. The U.S. also ranked highest for out of pocket health care expenditures.

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