Tuesday, July 12, 2011

US Healthcare Spending Outpaces Other Countries

The United States spends more on health care than any other country per capita with similar patient outcomes.  In 2009 Healthcare spending in the U.S. accounted for 17.4% of the nation’s total economic output. But why are health care costs so much higher n the US than in other states? 
Studies have shown that health care in the United States involves a lot more procedures.  In addition we insist upon using the newest technology (even if it hasn’t been proven that the newer is better).  We are a high-tech society.  The U.S. has more MRI and CT scanners than all other countries except for Japan (and in Japan they have access to cheaper CT and MRI’s).  We also buy our new technology earlier when it is more expensive while other countries will wait. 
In order to curb health care spending in England, they created the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).  NICE` evaluates new drugs, medical devices, diagnostic techniques, and surgical procedures, determines whether treatments are clinically effective,  compares them with relevant and current alternatives, and determines whether they are cost-effective and advises the National Health Service whether they should provide coverage for those services.
Another small step in lowering health care spending may be to be more aware of the costs of tests that are ordered.  A recent study showed that by merely giving doctors a list of the cost of laboratory tests they are ordering helps to reduce ordering unnecessary or duplicative tests.
Two recent articles on this topic can be found here:
U.S. healthcare spending far outpaces other countries,  Noam N. Levey, http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-health-spending-20110630,0,4003574.story?track=rss


  1. It's series of paradoxes. There's more money in the U.S. system going toward (as you say) more types of treatments, which are available more quickly, even if not all of them work. So more money doesn't automatically equal better results (sort of like education). However, I think Americans would rather have something NOW, accessible by money. The alternative to rationing by money is rationing by government fiat, which takes the agency out of the individual's hands. I think this, more than anything, fuels the philosophical and political fight over ObamaCare.


  2. Great points Barticus. I think there needs to be a balance between having everything now ang the government rationing care.