Health Care in the United States


  • U.S. health care spending is more than twice the average of other developed countries. 

    •  The United States spends more on health care than any other developed country in the world. OECD data shows that the U.S. spent 17.1% of its GDP on health care in 2013. This was almost 50% more than the next highest spender (France, 11.6% of GDP) and almost double what was spent in the U.K. (8.8%). U.S. spending per capita was equivalent to $9,086 [1] [2].

  • Since 1980, the gap has widened between U.S. health spending and that of other countries.

    • Over the past four decades, the difference between health spending as a share of the economy in the U.S. and comparable OECD countries has widened. In 1970 the U.S. spent about 7% of its GDP on health [3].
  • While the U.S. has similar public spending, its private sector spending is triple that of comparable countries. 

    • In 2012 the US spent about 8% of its GDP on health out of public funds – essentially equivalent to the average of the other eleven comparable OECD countries. However, private spending in the U.S. is much higher than any comparable country – 9% of GDP in the U.S., compared to 3% on average for other nations [4].

  • Health care prices are higher in the U.S. compared to other countries. 

    • Hospital and physician prices for procedures are higher in the U.S. than other countries.

    • 2013 data published by the International Federation of Health Plans show that the average price of bypass surgery was $75,345 in the U.S. This is more than $30,000 higher than in the second-highest country, Australia, where the procedure costs $42,130. According to the same data source, MRI and CT scans were also most expensive in the U.S. While these pricing data are subject to significant methodological limitations, they illustrate a pattern of significantly higher prices in many areas of U.S. health care [6].

      Other studies have observed high U.S. prices for pharmaceuticals. A 2013 investigation by Kanavos and colleagues created a cross-national price index for a basket of widely used in-patent pharmaceuticals. In 2010, all countries studied had lower prices than the U.S. In Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, prices were about 50 percent lower [5].

  • Despite spending the most on health care, the U.S. has inferior health outcomes. 

    • Life expectancy at birth in the U.S. is lower than in other developed countries, despite higher health care costs. 

    • The U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate among OECD countries.

    • The prevalence of chronic diseases are higher in the U.S. than in other comparable countries [6].

  • Though the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has reduced the number of Americans uninsured, it still has many shortcomings.

    • The ACA has reduced the number of individuals uninsured by 20 million . 

    • However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that even by 2019, 23 million people will still be uninsured, after full implementation of the law. 

    • Many people are left out--even those insured are often underinsured, not all needed care is accessible, and many cannot afford to get the care they need [7]