Report: US High on Health Spending, Low on Health Outcomes

A report from the Commonwealth Fund found that despite the fact that the United States outranks other high-income countries on healthcare spending, US providers rank lower than those countries on health outcome measures such as life expectancy, chronic condition prevalence, and infant mortality. The report’s results are based on 2013 data, and the countries analyzed include Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

A few key points from the results include:

  • The US spent, on average, $9,086 per person with an average life expectancy of 78.8 years; Australia, the country that spent the least per person at $4,115, achieved an average life expectancy of 82.2 years
  • Infant mortality in the US far outranked all other countries in the report at 6.1 per 1,000 live births; Japan achieved the lowest infant mortality rate, at 2.1 per 1,000 live births (Japan also had the highest life expectancy at 83.4 years)
  • The US is the only country in the report that does not have universal healthcare, but outspent other countries per person in healthcare expenses
  • The US boasts the highest prices for hospital procedures, physician procedures, and pharmaceuticals
  • The US spent about 50 percent more of its gross domestic product on healthcare than any other country in the report

The authors of the report note that despite the higher spending on healthcare expenses, “U.S. spending on social services made up a relatively small share of the economy relative to other countries.” While the high prices of healthcare services in the US account for some of the higher spending in the US, the country nonetheless “devotes a relatively small share of its economy to social services, such as housing assistance, employment programs, disability benefits, and food security.” The authors suggest that higher rates of healthcare spending may be taking funds from these areas, which may in turn contribute to the country’s poor health outcomes. “A growing body of evidence suggests that social services play an important role in shaping health trajectories and mitigating health disparities,” the authors wrote.

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