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Spending more is no guarantee of better health outcomes
October 19, 2015, 1:47 pm

A new report on global healthcare reiterates the old saying that money does not buy you everything; especially when it comes to healthcare in the United States.

The study conducted by Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports independent research on health and social issues, found that compared to 12 other industrialized nations, Americans paid the most for healthcare services and yet fared worst in terms of life expectancy.

While the United States did fare better on some counts, in most cases it trailed the other nations. The US cancer death rate was near the bottom of a list that included Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Moreover, since 1995, that rate has been falling faster in the United States than in other nations. However, on obesity rates and infant mortality, the United States did poorly compared to other nations.

The United States was pegged at spending slightly more than US$9,000 per person per year on health care. This meant that Americans spend more than 17 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare services. This was roughly 50 percent more than the health care expenditures of any other country on the list.

The second-highest health care spender, Switzerland, spent only about $6,300 on each of its citizens annually. And while American life expectancy maxed out at just below 79, the more frugal Swiss look forward to a life expectancy of nearly 83 years.

Although the United States was the only country on the list that did not have universal healthcare coverage, the US was nevertheless shelling out far more money on government health care than other developed nations. For example, while the US spent almost $4,200 on healthcare per person via Medicare and Medicaid in 2013, the United Kingdom spent just $2,800 per person with their National Health Service.

And what did Americans get for all their healthcare bucks? Not so much, relatively speaking. While Americans tended to see their doctors about four times a year, on average, only three nations, Switzerland, New Zealand and Sweden, had lower doctor visit rates. Yet, diagnostic services, such as PET and CT scans, were far more common in the United States. Also, apart from New Zealanders, Americans were the biggest adult consumers of prescription drugs.


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