US Spends More on Health Care But Has Lower Life Expectancy and Worse Health

The Commonwealth Fund issued a release on October 2015 with the title, “US Spends More on Health Care Than Other High-Income Nations But Has Lower Life Expectancy, Worse Health.” The study looked at healthcare and outcomes of the top 13 income countries. The study showed that spending more money does not translate into better health.

The analysis for this study was based on information gathered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other sources. The study reviewed data on health care spending, supply, utilization, prices, and health outcomes. The countries included were: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The data collected in this study was prior to the enactment of the major components of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, meaning that the information in this study was before any changes created by what is commonly known as Obama Care.

The study showed that healthcare spending in the U.S. was not created by more visits to doctors as U.S. citizens went to doctors less often than the people of many nations who had a lower cost of healthcare. The increase in spending did not translate into better health for the U.S. population as the study reported that, “Despite spending more on health care, Americans had poor health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy and greater prevalence of chronic conditions.”

The economic impact of healthcare in the U.S. is large. As of 2013, U.S. healthcare spending accounted for 17.1% of their gross domestic product (GDP). This number is almost 50% more than France, the next highest nation, and twice the level of the GDP percentage for all of the United Kingdom.

As of 2013 the U.S. spending on healthcare was $9,086 per every man woman and child in the U.S.. Switzerland is the next highest level of per capita spending at $6,325 per person. The United Kingdom is at the low end of the spectrum in this group spending only $3,364 per person.

In looking at the data for a reason for the high spending in the U.S., the study authors ruled out factors such as more visits, as the U.S. citizens only average 4 visits to doctors per person. This number is far less than the average, as well as less that the highest country Japan which averages 12.9 visits to the doctor per person per year.

After ruling out many other factors such as the number of doctors, percentage of the population over 65, and smoking, the U.S. leads in chronic illness and infant mortality, while being last among the studied nations in life expectancy.

In their discussion, the study offers a possible explanation by stating, “How can we explain the higher U.S. spending? In line with previous studies,19 the results of this analysis suggest that the excess is likely driven by greater utilization of medical technology and higher prices, rather than use of routine services, such as more frequent visits to physicians and hospitals.”

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