By Lisa Zamosky
The term “You get what you pay for” doesn’t hold water when it comes to the U.S. healthcare system, according to an updated analysis by the Commonwealth Fund.
Researchers found – or really reconfirmed what’s long been known – that the United States spends more on healthcare than 12 other industrialized countries without having better health to show for it (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).
On average, healthcare spending in 2009 was about $8,000 per person in the U.S. By comparison, Norway and Switzerland took up spots two and three in health care spending at just $5,000 per person.
Follow the Money
Where’s the extra money going?
It’s not being spent on more doctor visits or lengthy hospital stays. In 2009, Americans made fewer visits to the doctor than any other country except for Sweden. And despite less time spent in the hospital, average hospitalization costs more than $18,000 in the U.S. compared with less than $10,000 in Sweden ($9,870), Australia ($8,350), New Zealand ($7,160), France ($5,204), and Germany ($5,072).
Other major drivers of cost in the U.S. the study found:
- Prescription drugs – The 30 most commonly prescribed drugs cost one-third higher than in Canada and Germany, and more than double the prices in Australia, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.K.
- Physician visits – Primary care doctor visits are highest in the U.S., as are hip replacements done by orthopedic surgeons, who are paid more for the procedure in the U.S. than in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K.
- Physician income – American doctors make more money than physicians practicing in any other country. Primary care doctors in the U.S. average $186,582 per year and orthopedic doctors $442,450.
- Technology – The U.S. also spends more money on MRIs: $1,080 compared with $281 in France, as well as CT scans: $510 in the U.S. vs. $141 in France.
- Obesity – One-third of the U.S. population is obese, a rate higher than any other country studied, and in 2008, obesity accounted for almost 10% of all medical spending.
More Money, Better Health?
Except for breast and colorectal cancers, where survival rates are highest in the U.S., our pricey system isn’t doing a better job of keeping us in good health. America’s rates of preventable deaths due to asthma and diabetes-related amputations, for example, are the worst among all other study countries.
In sum, researchers write: “Despite being more expensive, the quality of health care in the U.S. does not appear to be notably superior to other industrialized countries.”
What’s more, 4 in 10 adults skipped care in 2010 because of the high cost.
Are we wasting our health care dollars here in the U.S.? Put in your two cents by commenting below.