U.S. spends most on healthcare

September 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The United States spends more on healthcare than any other industrialized country.

The United States spends more on healthcare than any other industrialized country, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs (vol. 22, no. 3).

The authors of the study, which was funded by the New York-based Commonwealth Fund, used data for the year 2000 to compare the health systems of the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to examine the factors contributing to higher healthcare prices in the United States. In addition, they compared pharmaceutical spending, health system capacity and use of medical services.

More money spent

In 2000, U.S. per-capita health spending was $4,631, an increase of 6.3% over 1999. In addition to being 44% higher than Switzerland's per-capita spending, the U.S. level was 83% higher than that of neighboring Canada and 134% higher than the median of $1,983 for the 30 OECD countries.

The spending gap between the United States and other industrialized countries in the OECD actually widened slightly between 1990 and 2000, according to the study.

Measured in terms of share of gross domestic product, the United States spent 13% on healthcare in 2000, Switzerland spent 10.7% and Canada spent 9.1%. The OECD median was 8%. Private spending per capita on healthcare in the United States was $2,580, more than five times the OECD median of $451. In addition, the United States financed 56% of its healthcare from private sources - tying with Korea for the highest of the OECD countries.

According to the study, the absolute amount of money financed from public sources - primarily Medicare and Medicaid - was similar to that of other countries. For example, public sources in the United States accounted for spending of 5.8% of GDP in 2000, close to the OECD median of 5.9%. However, per-person spending from public sources in the United States was $2,051 in 2000, far higher than the OECD median of $1,502. In most of the other OECD countries, public expenditures cover everyone. PR

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