Americans Pay More for Health Care, Get Less: Chart of the Day

Americans pay more for health care than Sweden and France, spending more on hospital visits, prescriptions and diagnostic-imaging tests, yet don’t always get better results, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

Spending more than twice as much per capita as Germany, Sweden and France still leaves the U.S. with the worst record among 12 developed countries on hospital admissions for asthma, congestive heart failure and diabetes complications, according to the fund, a private policy and research foundation based in New York. The U.S. scored best on survival rates for cancers such as breast and colorectal.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the U.S. spent $7,538 per capita on health care in 2008, most among the 12 nations and 50 percent more than second-place Norway, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s July 27 report, using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“The typical American believes, ‘We are in America; we’ve got to be the best,’” said Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton University health-care economist who has advised the World Bank, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services.

“No matter how bad things get, the American says ‘It’s got to be worse in England, Sweden and Canada,’” said Reinhardt. “The German system isn’t flawless, but no one has to lose their house when they get sick.”

Sweden, which spent 9.4 percent of its gross domestic product on health care compared with 16 percent for the U.S., had the lowest fatality rates for in-hospital heart attacks and hemorrhagic stroke, according to the study. Canada, which spent 10.4 percent of its GDP on health, had the best record on asthma admissions and female cervical cancer survival.

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