U.S. outspends its peers on health, but lags in life expectancy

While most of the OECD member nations have achieved universal healthcare, the U.S and Mexico are yet to achieve this.
Posted By Ananth Baliga   |   Nov. 21, 2013 at 9:48 AM   |   Comments

Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S may outspend its peers on healthcare at $8508 per person, but this is not translating to higher life expectancies.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its Health at a Glance 2013 report, which highlights the state of health in 34 of its member nations.

The U.S spends two and a half times the OECD average and close to 50 percent more than the next two countries, Norway and Switzerland.

In the last 41 years, U.S. life expectancy rose from 70.9 to 78.7 years, but it is still lower than in Norway, which spends $5,699 per person and maintains a life expectancy of 81.4 years.

The OECD notes several explanations for the U.S. lagging on life expectancy. The "the highly fragmented nature of the US health system, with relatively few resources devoted to public health and primary care, and a large share of the population uninsured," was a primary problem.

The report also noted the U.S. higher per capita obesity rates, higher prescription and illegal drug use, more traffic fatalities and higher homicide rates than many nations, dragging average life expectancy down.

On average, healthcare spending rose 4.1 percent among OECD countries over the 2000-2009 period but has dropped sharply in last 4 years owing to decreased spending in Europe after the financial crisis.

Per capita spending in Greece, which was worst hit by this financial turmoil, fell 11.1 percent, while there was 6.6 percent drop in Ireland. The drop in spending wasn't as bad in the U.S with a1.3 percent growth and a 0.8 percent growth in Canada.

Nearly all OECD countries, with the exception of the U.S. and Mexico, have achieved universal or quasi-universal health coverage. Since the 2004 reforms in Mexico, nearly 90 percent of the population has coverage. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S., a large portion of uninsured Americans should gain coverage.

According to a Gallup poll also released Thursday, 23 percent of Americans say cost is the most urgent health problem facing the country today, followed by access to healthcare, cited by 16 percent as the most urgent health problem.

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