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Why Is Healthcare In The U.S. So Expensive?

Most of us in the United States have only known the experiences of our own healthcare system. We hear about other countries and what is better and what is worse but it is hard to put it into context. One of the biggest differences is the high cost of healthcare in the U.S. How do the costs of care in the U.S. compare to other countries?

Healthcare in Other Developed Countries 

Using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), The U.S. spends more on healthcare as a share of the economy than any other developed country. The share of care in the U.S. is nearly twice the average developed country but the U.S. has the lowest life expectancy. The U.S. also leads in highest suicide rates. 

In 2018, the U.S. spent 16.9% of GDP on healthcare. The next highest rate was Switzerland, with 12.2% of GDP. The average rate of the 36 developed countries was 8.8% of GDP. Who is paying for the cost of this care?

Per capita spending for healthcare is divided up into 3 payers, public spending, private spending, and out-of-pocket spending. In the U.S., the average per capita spending based on healthcare was $10,207 with public spending accounting for almost $5,000, over $4,000 from private spending, with $1,122 for out-of-pocket costs. Every other country but Switzerland had lower out-of-pocket costs and lower private spending. 

Lower Life Expectancy

With so much spending, shouldn’t the U.S. have the best healthcare? It does not reflect in our life expectancy. The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy compared to other OECD nations, and not by just a little. The average life expectancy in the U.S. based on 2017 data was 78.6 years. The next lowest was Germany, with residents living an average of 2 ½ years longer to 81.1. Life expectancy in Switzerland was the highest at 83.6 years. 

With so much money spent on medical care, do Americans go to the doctor more often? The evidence shows people in the U.S. visit the doctor less often than most other OECD countries. In 2017, the U.S. averaged 4 visits a year to the doctor. In Germany, people averaged almost 10 visits a year. 

Higher Suicide and Chronic Disease Rates

The U.S. also has a higher suicide rate compared to developed OECD countries. The rate of deaths per 100,000 population for the U.S. was 13.9 followed by France with 13.1. The UK had the lowest rate, with 7.3. Even the countries that people associate with suicide like the far north nations of Sweden and Norway had lower rates than the U.S. at 11.1 and 11.6 respectively.

Chronic diseases are much higher in the U.S. compared to other developed countries. More than 1/4 of U.S. adults report they have 2 or more chronic conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and asthma. In the Netherlands, only 14% of residents reported multiple chronic diseases.

Expect Better Care

We spend so much on healthcare each year, we should expect top care. Many patients just deal with medical mistakes and errors because they think they can’t fight the system. However, a phone call to your medical malpractice lawyer can help take the burden off your hands. 

Your lawyer can handle your claim and deal with the doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies so you can get compensation for your injuries. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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