Health Spending vs. Results - Confronting the truth about America's "best health care system in the world."
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: June 5, 2010
The United States spends much more on health care than countries with similar kinds of economies. So costs are sure to be examined closely as federal officials shape regulations under the new health care law. Americans have abundant access to high-tech diagnostic tools like CT and M.R.I. scanners, and to life-saving surgical procedures like angioplasties.
Yet Americans don’t see doctors more often or live longer, healthier lives, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And Americans’ cancer survival rates are not markedly better. In fact, the population of the United States has about the same prevalence of disease as that of other developed countries.
So where does the money go?
Doctor visits, medical procedures and prescription drugs cost vastly more, on average, in the United States than in other countries. The United States also spends more money on health care administration, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute.
“We have known for a long time that health care is a market failure,” said Colleen M. Grogan, a professor of health administration and policy at the University of Chicago. “We have a system where there is an enormous incentive to charge higher prices, and no accountability to control those prices.”
How the United States compares with other O.E.C.D. members
1 Legend Data from 2007 or most recent available year
A country’s wealth usually dictates how much money it spends on health care, but spending in the United States is far beyond that of its peer countries.
Health care spending as a percentage of gross domestic product
The McKinsey study shows that the intensity of medical treatment — as seen in measures like the number of high-tech diagnostic scanners — is relatively high in the United States.
CT scanners, per million people
3 Cat Scan
Though Americans undergo more surgical procedures like angioplasties, which widen clogged arteries, deaths from heart attacks are not proportionately lower.
Angioplasty procedures, per 1,000 people
Despite very good access to diagnostic equipment and surgical procedures, Americans’ life expectancy is lower than that of many other countries.
Life expectancy at birth
Economists point to the rate of cancer deaths in the United States as an indicator that its spending is out of line with results.
Deaths from cancer, per 100,000 people
Experts say that the United States lags in basic preventive care, like annual checkups, and relies too heavily on expensive specialists.
Annual consultations with doctors, per capita
The United States also has relatively few hospital beds for its population. Economists have noted that hospitals’ inpatient care is growing at a much slower rate than outpatient care, which has a much higher profit margin.
Hospital beds, per 1,000 people
By HANNAH FAIRFIELD/The New York Times |
Sources: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; McKinsey Global Institute