Friday, March 24, 2017

Health Care in America - Paying More and Getting Less

With Obamacare and Trumpcare taking up a great deal of the media's attention over the past month, I wanted to take a look at a little-discussed aspect of health care in the United States, how spending on health care in America compares to that of other nations.

According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, here is a graphic showing how health care spending compares among developed nations:

You'll notice that U.S. per capita spending on health care is more than twice the OECD average of $3,620.

Actually, higher spending levels on health care in the United States could be a good thing if improved health outcomes reflect the additional spending.  As shown here, that is far from the case for many health issues:

A study by Goran Ridic, Suzanne Gleason and Ognjen Ridic compares the health care systems of Canada, Germany and the United States, all of which are highly advanced economies.  Both Canada and Germany have a national health care system (some would call it socialism) with universal health insurance coverage and a system where governments are responsible for providing social benefits, including health care, equally to all citizens.  This is in sharp contrast to the United States where private health care insurance costs are borne by individuals and there is no single nationwide system of health insurance.  From the study which uses data from the OECD in 1998, here is a table showing the life expectancy at birth and life expectancy for adults aged 65 as well as the infant mortality rate:

In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO),  the situation has not improved for the United States since 1998 with Canada now having a life expectancy at birth of 82.2 years, Germany now having a life expectancy of 81 years and the United States having a life expectancy of 79.3 years.  As well, in 1998, the United States also had, by a relatively wide margin, the highest infant mortality rate among the three nations in the study.

Here is a map from WHO showing how life expectancy in the United States is definitely not among the world's longest among when compared to its OECD peers in Europe and the South Pacific:

When looking at the entire list of nations, the United States has the 31st longest life expectancy, after Italy, Israel, Chile, Cyprus, Slovenia and Costa Rica. 

While Washington continues to play political games with how health care is offered in the United States, it spends almost no time on actually improving the health outcomes and longevity of Americans, the most important health care issue of all.  Americans have a long tradition of paying more for their health care and getting less in return. 


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