How Much Do Countries Spend on Healthcare per Capita?

The United States spends the most of all the OECD countries on healthcare, but Americans have not experienced the gains in health or longevity that would be expected from such spending. Americans spent $7,960 US Dollars (USD) per person on healthcare in 2009, which was about $2,600 USD more than people in Norway, which was the next biggest spender. In one poll of primary care doctors, only 6 percent of doctors said they thought that patients were getting too little healthcare. On the contrary, more than half said that Americans get too much healthcare, particularly excessive tests.

More facts about healthcare in America:

  • Extra healthcare can actually be harmful or even fatal. Although healthcare advances have saved millions of lives, procedures such as computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Cesarean sections and the prescribing of antibiotics often have at best a neutral effect and at worst can cause a fatal condition such as cancer. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine said that as many as one in 50 future cases of cancer might be caused by the more than 60 million CT scans that are performed each year in the U.S.

  • Although the U.S. spends more than 17 percent of its gross domestic product on medical care, people in the U.S. have a lower life expectancy than people in Germany, which spends about 10.5 percent; Australia and Norway, both of which spend about 9 percent; and Japan, which spends about 8 percent.

  • Healthcare spending in the U.S. really took off around 1985. In the early 1980s, the U.S. spent about $1,000 USD per capita on healthcare each year, which was a little more than the OECD average for the time. By 1990, that amount had tripled; by 1995, it had quadrupled; and by 2005, it had increased 700 percent.

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