As the enrollment deadline at the end of this month for the Affordable Care Act draws near, the facts, figures, and comments from all sides are flying throughout the media sphere. It might be exactly the moment to look again at the big picture of U.S. health care as measured against that of the rest of the world, and remember why radical reform of the American health system was thought to be urgent in the first place.
Using a range of key public health indicators provided by the World Health Organization, U.S. health care has been compared to 16 other countries around the globe, and the figures tell the tale: in 2010, the U.S. spent more than two and one-half times more on health care per person than most developed nations in the world, over $8,000 per capita. Canada, the second highest, spent just $5,200. France and Japan spent $4,600 and $3,900, respectively.
How did France and Japan hold down costs? By accepting all patients, using common fee schedules, and being flexible in adjusting costs as fees in specific areas grew faster than projected. The Affordable Care Act is designed to include these ideas. Other areas remain to be addressed. For example, the U.S. has fewer physicians per 1,000 population in comparison to the average of the 34 countries who make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2.4 per thousand compared to 3.1 And the number of general practitioners in the U.S. is much lower than the OECD average, 0.3 per 1,000 compared to 1.2. There’s much to be done to make U.S. health care as efficient and as effective as the world’s most developed economy can engineer it to be.
I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.