U.S. Outspends 12 Industrialized Nations on Healthcare, But Quality Lags

Healthcare spending in the United States dwarfs a dozen other industrialized countries, but variable healthcare quality measures indicate the U.S. healthcare system is "not notably superior," according to a study from The Commonwealth Fund (pdf).

The study looked at data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, among other sources, to compare healthcare spending, supply, utilization, prices and quality in 13 industrialized countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In 2009, the United States' average healthcare spending per capita was $7,960 — the next closest was Norway at $5,352, a difference of more than $2,600. Healthcare spending was also 17.4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, still far above any other country. The Netherlands had the second-highest healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP at 12 percent.

Despite the high costs, the U.S. healthcare system did not exhibit top-notch healthcare quality indicators across the board, according to the report. The U.S. recorded the highest survival rates for breast cancer and colorectal cancer, but the 64 percent survival rate for cervical cancer was lower than the median of the countries studied. In addition, the U.S. only had average figures for in-hospital fatality rate within 30 days of readmission for heart attacks (4.3 deaths per 100 patients versus a median of 4.6) and hemorrhagic stroke (21 deaths per 100 patients versus a median of 19.3).

The author, David Squires, concluded that several factors have affected the astronomical spending increases in the U.S. healthcare system — higher prices, more readily accessible technology, greater rates of obesity and others — and efforts to control healthcare spending "inevitably" involve trade-offs, such as regulating prices.

More Articles on U.S. Healthcare Costs:

Average Cost Per Inpatient Day Across 50 States in 2010

Countries' Economy, Healthcare System Linked to Cholesterol Rates

U.S. Hospital Stay Costs Outpace Other Countries by More Than Three Fold

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