According to the Peterson Center on Healthcare, between 2010 and 2019, health spending across the 37 nations that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) averaged about 8.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually. But healthcare spending in the United States rose from 16.3 percent to 17.0 percent of GDP during that same time period.
The Peterson Center reports that “In 2019, the United States spent about $11,100 per person on healthcare—the highest healthcare cost per capita across the OECD. For comparison, Switzerland was the second highest-spending country with about $7,700 in healthcare expenses per capita, while the average for wealthy OECD countries, excluding the United States, was only $5,500 per person.”
The U.S. spends about $940 per person on healthcare administrative costs—four times the average of other wealthy countries and significantly more than we spend on preventive or long-term healthcare.
Despite significantly higher healthcare spending, the U.S. actually performs worse than other OECD countries in some common health metrics like life expectancy, infant mortality, and unmanaged diabetes.
Why do we pay more and get less in healthcare? Because in the U.S., healthcare is a for-profit business. Doctors are in business to make money rather than being professionals dedicated to the care of others. In most OECD countries, medicine is a government-provided service. In both Canada and the U.K., for example, the public health service, a government agency, provides healthcare for all citizens. It is paid for by taxes.
The U.S. compromise is health insurance, often provided by employers. That still leaves many Americans uninsured. Obamacare, that is, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was an attempt to reduce the number not covered. But even with the ACA, some 27.5 million Americans (9.1 percent) are without health insurance.
It’s long since time that Americans changed the way we do healthcare and made it a government function. We are hesitant because of our traditional distrust of government. We fear “socialized medicine.” Our working model stresses rugged individualism rather than brotherly assistance. It’s time we grew up and joined the other nations in the world in caring for our citizens.