Americans spend nearly twice as much on health care as other wealthy countries, but it’s not doing much to improve their health, a new study finds. The United States has the shortest life expectancy and highest infant and maternal mortality rates among any of its peers.
Steep spending on drugs and doctor’s salaries are among the major drivers of the high cost of health care in the United States, according to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Economics. But, contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t use more health care than residents in other countries.
Health care spending accounted for 17.8% of the US economy in 2016, compared to an average of 11.5% in the 11 high-income countries the study examined. Americans spent $9,400 per capita on health care that year, compared to an average of $5,400 in the peer nations, which include Canada, Japan, Australia and several Western European countries.
However, health care usage in the United States was relatively similar to the other countries. Americans had lower rates of physician visits and spent fewer days in the hospital, though they had some of the highest rates for imaging tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, and some common surgical procedures, such as knee replacements, cataract surgeries and cesarean births.