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Is The Amount Americans Spend On Heathcare Worth It?

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Benjamin Taub

author

Benjamin Taub

Freelance Writer

Benjamin holds a Master's degree in anthropology from University College London and has worked in the fields of neuroscience research and mental health treatment.

Freelance Writer

3794 Is The Amount Americans Spend On Heathcare Worth It?
Despite high spending on healthcare, life expectancy in the U.S. remains disappointing. Health Care Costs by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

The latest figures relating to annual spending on healthcare in the U.S. make for disappointing reading. According to a report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America spent more than two-and-a-half times the average amount spent by the 34 other OECD member nations on healthcare in 2013, yet this was not matched by a rise in life expectancy.

Of the $9,225 (£6,000) spent per person across the 12-month period, roughly one third went on hospital care, while 20 percent was accounted for by physician costs and other clinical services. The total figure is equal to just under 17.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

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However, in spite of this large expenditure on health-related activities, the average life expectancy in the U.S. remains 78.8 years. This is equal to that of Chile, which spent a fraction of the amount paid by the U.S. during the period under discussion. It is also four years less than that of Switzerland, despite the fact that the European country spent less than $6,350 (£4,160) per person in 2013.

According to some forecasts, healthcare expenditure for 2015 could exceed $10,000 (£6,500) per person for the first time, with much of this increase being driven by a widespread switch to high-deductible health plans.

The fact that increased spending on healthcare does not necessarily correlate with increased life expectancy is indicative of the fact there may be a wide range of factors affecting a population’s overall health, which are not limited to the level of medical care available. For instance, studies have revealed that lifestyle factors such as diet can have a significant effect, with high blood sugar levels and obesity contributing greatly to reductions in life expectancy. According to figures released this year by the World Health Organization, two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which could be partly responsible for the disappointing returns on healthcare expenditure in the U.S.


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