7. The US spends more on healthcare than any other developed nation, and yet it has the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rates.
US healthcare spending is high, and the country doesn’t have much to show for it. JAMA researchers compared America with 10 other high-income countries around the world: Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In 2016, America spent 17.8% of its GDP on healthcare. Other countries ranged from Switzerland, where healthcare costs accounted for 12.4%, to Australia, which spent 9.6% on healthcare.
Life expectancy in the US was also lower than in any other country — 78.8 years. In the other countries, life expectancy ranged from 80.7 to 83.9 years. As for infant mortality rates, the US had 5.8 fatalities out of every 1,000 live births. For other countries, the average was 3.6 fatalities for every 1,000 live births.
If America can’t protect its people, then why does healthcare spending by country indicate that it spends more than anyone else? Where is all that money going?
The next section might give you a clue.
Why Is American Healthcare so Expensive?
8. The US spent 18% of its GDP on healthcare in 2017.
With 57.6% of the population overweight or obese, 647,457 people dying from cardiovascular disease every year, and 598,038 people dying from cancer, US spending on healthcare almost seems justified. But 18% is more than twice the amount other developed countries pay. What gives? Are Americans simply that sick?
Hardly. In truth, there are several reasons why healthcare is so pricey. Expensive medication, expensive procedures, high salaries for doctors and nurses, and exorbitant administrative costs all contribute to the problem.
Wondering how much the country spends on all of this? We break it down in the next few stats.
9. On average, general physicians in America earned $218,173 in 2016.
Compare this to the $86,607 that they earned in Sweden and the $154,126 that they earned in Germany. America pays its doctors better than most other countries in the world.
10. Administrative costs accounted for 8% of total healthcare spending in the US in 2016.
In other countries, the numbers range between 1% and 3%. American doctors report a high level of “administrative burden.” Marking clinical data reports and resolving insurance claims not only takes a lot of time and effort for physicians, but it also costs a lot of money.
11. In 2016, $329 billion was spent on pharmaceuticals alone.
Medication is incredibly expensive in America, and a lot of people simply don’t have the funds they need to buy life-saving medicines.
Here’s an example: An average year’s supply of insulin for a single person with type one diabetes was $2,864 in 2012. In 2016, the average cost was $5,705. Increasing the price of drugs like insulin is extremely dangerous. Without the funds to buy them, people can die (and they definitely do).
12. The average cost for a coronary bypass surgery in America is $75,345. For Switzerland, it’s $36,509.
Another thing that drives up the cost of healthcare in the US is high procedure prices. While the expertise of American doctors certainly can’t be disputed, the costliness is driving up outgoing medical tourism. Americans travel to Brazil, India, Mexico, Turkey, and Thailand because they can get procedures done for a fraction of the price. According to the American Journal of Medicine, 1.4 million Americans traveled outside of the US for procedures in 2017, compared to 750,000 in 2007.
How much does the US spend on healthcare?
In 2017, the US spent $3.5 trillion on healthcare. Healthcare spending per capita was $10,224. Healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP was 18%. Wealthy countries do tend to spend more money on their citizens than impoverished countries, but America doesn’t have a great track record on how the budget is utilized. For example, 8% of total US healthcare spending goes to administrative costs. Physicians have to spend a large chunk of their time filing paperwork and interacting with healthcare plans, and this kind of effort usually leads to physician burnout. While GPs earn more than $200,000 on average, depression and anxiety are common problems faced by American doctors who have to wrestle with paperwork instead of helping their patients.
What country pays the most for healthcare?
That would be America. United States healthcare spending surpasses spending in every other country. Even well-developed nations spend much less and they can still afford high-quality care. For example, Switzerland spent $8,009 per capita in 2017, compared to America’s $10,224. The United Kingdom spent $4,246, Canada spent $4,826, and Australia spent $4,543.
Bear in mind that comparing countries is complicated. Each one has different social and political attributes that contribute to spending, and the country’s overall economy plays a huge role in how costs are calculated. For example, medication in America is more expensive than anywhere else, and we also have the best-paid doctors in the whole world.
How much does each country spend on healthcare?
For your convenience, here’s a quick, handy list of countries and how much money they spend on healthcare. We also have a table that compares government spending on healthcare by country.
Average 2017 spending on healthcare per capita
- United States: $10,224
- Switzerland: $8,009
- Germany: $5,728
- Sweden: $5,511
- Austria: $5,449
- Netherlands: $5,386
- France: $4,902
- Canada: $4,826
- Belgium: $4,774
- Japan: $4,717
- Australia: $4,543
- United Kingdom: $4,246
- Country Average: $5,280
Which country has the best healthcare?
It’s difficult to measure healthcare quality because it depends on several factors (like healthcare spending), but the Best Countries 2019 global report can give us a good insight. This is a study that compiles data on 75 metrics from 20,000 citizens representing 80 countries. The study is done by the Best Countries portal in partnership with US News & World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. One of the subcategories is called Quality of Life, and one of the measures is how well developed the country’s public health system is. According to this study, here are the top ten countries based on the quality of their healthcare:
- United Kingdom
America isn’t on the list because it ranks 19th.
Who pays for healthcare in the US?
There are three big sources of healthcare funding in the US: the government, individuals, and private insurance companies. In 2017, 39% of the funding went to hospital care, 23% went to physicians and clinical services, 11% went to prescription drugs, 6% went to nursing care facilities, 6% went to other healthcare, 4% went to dental services, 3% went to home health care, 4% went to other medical products, and 3% went to other professional services. Most was paid through private health insurance.
Is healthcare free in the US?
No. For the most part, healthcare is not free in the US. There are no services like the UK’s National Health Service, and most people are covered by private health insurance. However, employers often cover healthcare for their employees, and there are government-funded programs like Medicare.
How much would it cost to have free healthcare?
Healthcare spending is definitely a hot topic in the US. Politicians have been trying to answer this question for years, and they still haven’t reached a conclusion. Free healthcare would almost certainly require a big tax hike, but overall spending might decline. The end result would be that millions of people would get access to life-saving health services.
Healthcare Spending in the Future
Healthcare is a complex subject in the US. While politicians argue over how to approach the problems of rising healthcare prices, average Americans are rationing insulin, selling their cars to pay for last year’s unexpected hospital stay, and arguing about pre-existing conditions with their insurance companies.
The bottom line is this: We need to find a way to take care of our own. Whether it’s through a better government spending plan, advanced technology that can cut down costs, or something else entirely, our people deserve to have their health protected.