LA Times—The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country, but not with better health outcomes

Originally posted in the LA Times: Read full article here.

The United States has much room for improvement when it comes to healthcare, experts said. “The U.S. spends more on healthcare, but we don’t have the same health outcomes [as other countries],” said Cynthia Cox, associate director at Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that researches national health issues.

Americans have also long voiced their disillusionment with a system that many experts have warned does not meet the health needs of its population.

But while lawmakers engaged in heated back-and-forth debates in recent months over how to reform the U.S. healthcare system — ending in a lack of sufficient votes on Monday to make changes — people in many other countries have managed to get it right for years and enjoy a stable healthcare system.

Viewed from a global perspective, the current U.S. healthcare impasse underscores just how poor health outcomes for people in the United States are when compared with other countries.

Countries with largest per capita healthcare expenditures, 2015

Source: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Not all OECD members shown.
Source: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Not all OECD members shown. (L.A. Times Graphics)

In 2015, the United States spent almost three times on healthcare as the average of other countries with comparable incomes, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, also known as the OECD, a group of 35 countries, the majority of which have advanced economies, that work to promote economic development. And despite spending more, the results don’t necessarily yield better health. Both Italy and Britain, for example, spent at least $5,000 less per person than the United States on healthcare, and yet the population of each of those countries has a higher life expectancy at birth than the United States.

According to experts, there are two underlying reasons why the United States spends so much on healthcare: It uses expensive medical technology and prices for healthcare services, and goods are higher than in other countries.

As a result, the United States spends more on healthcare than any other country, including those belonging to the OECD.

“The U.S. spends more money, but we definitely have worse health outcomes,” said David Squires, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation based in New York that carries out independent research on healthcare issues.