Comparing US & OECD Risk Factors

Tom Emerick

Posted 11/30/11 on Cracking Health Costs

In my last two posts we looked at the fact that the US health care costs per person are twice that of OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) member countries, yet our life expectancy at birth has declined relatively over the past 15 years.  We also looked at how we do invasive heart procedures at about twice the rate of OECD members. (See OECD 2011 Health at a Glance.)

When some people see these stats they may say ‘Yes, but people in the US are so much less fit and healthy.’  Hmmm.  Let’s look at the facts.  Data may justify a 10-11% higher heart surgery rate but not one 100% higher than peer countries.


OECD   18.9%

US       33.8%


OECD     2.1%

US       18.1%


OECD     9.1

US         8.8

So, we have about 14.9% more obese people in the US, but we drink about a liter less per person, and our smoking rate is 4% less. if we subtract the smoking rate from the obesity rate, one may conclude that the US population is about 11% less “healthy” than the average OECD member.

Again, my point is data may justify a 10-11% higher heart surgery rate, but not a 100% higher rate!  This is evidence that demands a verdict.

What does a benefit executive do?  Same advice as yesterday:

  • Be informed that something is very wrong with health care in the US.
  • Make a decision to do something about it for your employees.
  • Identify the specialists who overdo procedures and tests.  (Doing this step may be easier than you think. I was examining some data recently and found a specialty practice that was doing costly testing at 20 times the national average. You don’t have to accept that.)
  • Provide incentives for plan members to go to the right surgeons and clinics.

Tom Emerick is a health care consultant for employers and the former VP, Benefits at Walmart. He writes at Cracking Health Costs.

Only Docs Can Do It

Merrill Goozner

First published 5/19 on Gooz News

Do what, you ask? Cut costs. So say Victor Fuchs and Arnold Milstein in a sprightly overview of the roadblocks to cutting health care costs in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The short essay begins with the observation that the most cost-effective and often highest quality health care systems in the U.S. (usually organized as non-profit, integrated groups like Kaiser Permanente or Intermountain Health) deliver care at 20 percent less than the national average. Spread their model to the rest of the system and it could lop a whopping $640 billion off the national health care tab.

Continue reading “Only Docs Can Do It”

Average Annual Health Costs for a US Family of Four Approach $20,000, With Employees Bearing 40%

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

First published 5/11/11 on Health Populi

Health care costs have doubled in less than nine years for the typical American family of four covered by a preferred provider health plan (PPO). In 2011, that health cost is nearly $20,000; in 2002, it was $9,235, as measured by the 2011 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). To put this in context,

  • The 2011 poverty level for a family of 4 in the 48 contiguous U.S. states is $22,350
  • The car buyer could purchase a Mini-Cooper with $20,000
  • The investor could invest $20K to yield $265,353 at a 9% return-on-investment.

Continue reading “Average Annual Health Costs for a US Family of Four Approach $20,000, With Employees Bearing 40%”

1 in 2 employers will continue to offer health insurance even if HIEs are competitive in 2014


Originally published 12/16/2010 on Health Populi.

Just over one-half of U.S. employers plan to maintain their health plans in 2014 even if health insurance exchanges (HIEs) offer competitive priced health plans for individual employee health coverage, according to a survey of 1,400 employers by Willis and Diamond Management & Technology Consultants. 1 in 3 employers is not sure whether they’ll maintain their own health plan or shift employees toward an HIE.

Continue reading “1 in 2 employers will continue to offer health insurance even if HIEs are competitive in 2014”