U.S. Spend More on Health Care than Any Other Country

Medical treatment in the US is
average - the bill is far beyond
© Hemera

In 2005, Americans spent 53 percent per capita more than the next highest country, Switzerland, and 140 percent above the median industrialized country. The study authors analysed whether two possible reasons - supply constraints and malpractice litigation - could explain the difference in health care costs. They found that neither factor accounted for a large portion of the U.S. spending differential.

"It is commonly believed that waiting lists in other countries and malpractice litigation in the United States are major reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than other countries. We found that they only explain a small part of the difference,” said Gerard Anderson, PhD, lead author of the study and a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

The study authors reviewed health care spending data on 30 countries from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the year 2003. U.S. citizens spent $5,267 per capita on health care. The median OECD country spent $2,193 per capita.

One of the commonly cited reasons why U.S. citizens spend more on health care than other countries is that these other countries have waiting lists, especially for elective surgery. The procedures with waiting lists in these other countries, however, represent only 3 percent of spending and therefore cannot explain much of the cost differential.

Another perceived cause of higher health care costs in the United States is that malpractice suits increase the prices charged by doctors and cause them to practice defensive medicine, which occurs when doctors order extra tests or procedures to reduce their risk of being sued.

"As in previous years, it comes back to the fact that we are paying much higher prices for health care goods and services in the United States. Paying more is okay if our outcomes were better than other countries. But we are paying more for comparable outcomes,” said Anderson.

MEDICA.de; Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health