There’s a lot of talk about health care proposals in Washington these days. Personally, I have been having issues with my health insurance and health care provider getting on the same page – i.e. they’re making me pay for a routine visit that should be fully covered. In my case, I have (great) insurance, and yet I’m forced to settle between the (at least) 4 parties involved: the doctor, the back office billing for the doctor, the insurer, and the network provider. It’s crazy.
Anyways, many analysts bring up how we pay more per capita for health care – well here’s the data, courtesy of World Health Organization’s Statistical Information System (WHOSIS), an excellent resource. I broke it down into a single chart, using the top 37 countries by population (over 30M) in 2006. It’s crowded, but still readable I think. Note, the right vertical axis is age and percentage, and PPP stands for purchasing power parity.
The results are fascinating. We can easily gather that the US spends over $3,000 more than any other country on health, per capita. Yet the life expectancy and healthy life expectancy are on par and often lower than the other top countries. Makes me wonder where all our additional money is going. Actually, I know that answer – it’s in the administration, e.g. see my problem above (and this doesn’t account for lost productivity at work for patients trying to figure out the system).
The thing I learned, that I never realized before, was that for countries where health expenditures are at least $500 per capita, the government in the US contributes the least (as a percentage), by a significant margin. That means that private expenditure is huge, i.e. we have placed a larger burden on businesses to cover health care than comparable countries. The fact that out-of-pocket expenditure makes up a lower percentage of private spending in the US is most likely due to the high contributions by the private sector overall.
The question is this, if the government contributed more to health care and we asked individuals to pay slightly more out-of-pocket, would we be able to bring down the overall health costs? Keep in mind that the US government already spends more per capita than any other government listed here. There’s no easy answer.