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Study: U.S. healthcare costs nearly double of other wealthy countries

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Americans spend roughly twice as much annually on healthcare as those living in seven other high-income countries, according to an analysis published Thursday.

Researchers, writing in JAMA Network Open, analyzed U.S. health expenditures in 2015 -- the year after the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented -- and pegged spending at $9,524 per person.

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Switzerland was next in per capita health spending at $6,730 annually, with Germany -- at $5,277 -- the only other country above $5,000 per person, the researchers said.

The biggest differences were seen in adults age 20 to 64, who spent an average of $8,161 for healthcare in the United States. That is more than twice the mean of spending -- $3,603 -- for all of the countries included in the analysis.

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Adults in Switzerland that age group had the second-highest per capita figure, at $5,166, the researchers found.

And while healthcare spending increased for all adults 65 and older in all the countries, it more than tripled in the United States -- to $24,655 per person -- they said.

"Compared to other high-income countries, U.S. healthcare spending is considerably higher at all ages," study co-author Irene Papanicolas, associate professor of health economics at the London School of Economics, told UPI.

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"Our work shows that the U.S. healthcare system for individuals aged 65 and up remains considerably more costly than in other countries," she said.

The average health expenditures of seniors in the United States was more than twice the mean -- $12,309 -- for all eight countries included in the analysis, according to Papanicolas.

For the analysis, the researchers used data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to examine variations in 2015 total healthcare spending per capita, by age, for the United States and seven other high-income countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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They also compiled spending data from the "Health Expenditures by Diseases and Conditions" report and from the 2013 Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation project in the United States.

In addition to increased spending on care for seniors, expenditures on healthcare for children from birth to age 4 in the United States outpaced that of the other countries in the analysis by $3,899 per child, the researchers found.

"I believe this to likely be driven by higher spending in the first year of life, particularly [during] the neonatal period, where we know from other studies that large inpatient spending occurs," Papanicolas said.

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