"The differences between U.S. and Europe in health care expenditures could not be starker," Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said. "Starting at age 65, per capita U.S. expenditures skyrocket, resulting in many hundreds of billions of dollars being spent over our European counterparts after matching population sizes." If the U.S. had the same per capita health expenditures for retirees as Germany or the United Kingdom, the country's total health care costs for all citizens would be about 40 percent less.
Tough health care policy decisions revolve around cost-benefit trade-offs. A variety of factors would have to be weighed if the country shifted the emphasis from care for the elderly to polices that favour earlier preventive and lifestyle choices. "A shift in U.S. policy could lead to more people reaching age 65, but once there, facing a higher chance of dying," Fischbeck said.
The research shows that prostate cancer, which has few lifestyle risk factors, is a much greater killer in Europe. In eleven European countries a man in his 70s has a higher chance of dying from prostate cancer than a man in Mississippi, the U.S. state with the highest risk. The tables are reversed when comparing the diabetes death risk for men in their 70s, a risk highly related to lifestyle choices and obesity. Fifteen European countries have lower risks than Iowa, the U.S. state with the lowest risk. Similar risk comparisons are possible for women.
Where is it better to live to reach certain milestones? For men and women under 65, the risks of dying before 65 are higher in the U.S. But for men older than 56 and woman older than 75 who want to make it to 85, the U.S. is the better location. "When it comes to health care, there are no easy choices. We hope that adding data to the debate will help make the final policies better," Fischbeck said.
MEDICA.de; Source: Carnegie Mellon University