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U.S. continues to outspend other nations on healthcare

The United States continues to lead industrialized nations in healthcare spending, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation promoting a better healthcare system.

Researchers at the New York City-based Commonwealth Fund analyzed health data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and found that of the 12 countries studied, the U.S. by far spends the most on healthcare. The study concentrated on data for Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S. 

[See also: CMS: Average U.S. health spending to rise 5.8 percent annually through 2020]

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Healthcare spending in Norway and Switzerland, the next-highest spending countries, was less than two-thirds as much per capita ($5,003 and $4,627, respectively). In all but two of the remaining eight countries, spending per capita was less than half the U.S. figure, and in New Zealand it was close to one-third ($2,683).

“Since 1980, the U.S. has spent far more each year on healthcare than other wealthy nations, and health spending is consuming an increasing share of both government and household budgets,” said David Squires, senior research associate at the Commonwealth Fund

“Despite this higher spending, Americans do not appear to be receiving consistently better care than those in other countries,” added Squires. “That is why the reforms in the Affordable Care Act are so important. When fully implemented, the new law will begin to slow the growth in costs, and ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, high quality care.”
In his research, Squires found that healthcare spending in the U.S. far exceeds that of other countries. The U.S. has fewer hospital beds and physicians and sees fewer hospital and physician visits than in most other countries. Prescription drug utilization, prices and spending all appear to be highest in the U.S., as does the supply, utilization and price of diagnostic imaging, the report stated.
Other important study findings include:

  • In 2008, healthcare spending in the U.S. reached $7,538 per capital - far above any other country studied and more than double the OECD median.
  • Out-of-pocket healthcare spending was higher in the U.S. than in all the other countries except Switzerland.
  • Although hospital stays were comparatively infrequent and short in the U.S., hospital spending per discharge was nearly triple the OECD median.
  • With respect to quality-of-care measures, U.S. performance was mixed, ranking high on five-year cancer survival but low on hospital admissions for chronic conditions.