Why US Health Costs are Higher Than Anywhere Else in the World

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Health Populi

The price of physician services, proliferation of clinical technology and the cost of obesity are the key drivers of higher health spending in the U.S., according to The Commonwealth Fund‘s latest analysis in their Issues of International Health Policytitled, Explaining High Health Care Spending in the United States: An International Comparison of Supply, Utilization, Prices, and Quality, published in May 2012.

The U.S. devotes 17.4% of the national economy to health spending, amounting to about $8,000 per person. The UK devotes about 10%, Germany 11.6%, France, 11.8%, Australia 8.7%, and Japan, 8.5%.

On the physician pay front, primary care doctors in the U.S. earn about $186,000 a year, compared with Australian colleagues who bring in about $92K a year, French peers at $96K per annum, Canadian PCPs earning $125,000, Germans at $131K, and British earning $160K.

Continue reading “Why US Health Costs are Higher Than Anywhere Else in the World”

US Health Care Hits $3 Trillion

Dan Munro

Posted 1/19/12 on Forbes

Dan MunroGreat post by Rick Ungar over on The Policy Page. Still, I’m left wondering. It’s an election year and given the stakes, I think we’ll look back on 2012 as the year of the great Healthcare Reform debate – Part 2. What we have today is really just the beginning of a long and winding investment in Healthcare Reform – Part 1. I think the question remains – have we tamed the cost beast with real legislation – or is it just legislation around the edges? Here’s why I’m wondering.

National Healthcare Expenditure – or NHE. Total agreement with Rick that costs are “out-of-control” because our NHE is really $3 trillion – this year. Actually, NHE for 2012 is probably closer to $2.7 trillion but there’s this nagging bookkeeping accrual of about $300 billion where we (narrowly) avoided those darn pesky SGR cuts to Medicare. It’s come to be known affectionately as “doc fix” – and we’ve kicked that can down the road for 9 consecutive years. Maybe we’ll just write it off – and maybe we should – but it’s actually on the books so we can’t just ignore it – can we? That puts the real NHE at about $3 trillion for 2012 (+ about 4% for each year forward – as far as the eye can see). As one economist said – we don’t have a debt problem in this country – we have a healthcare problem.

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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.

Who Will Pay For Long Term Care Around the World?

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

First published  5/31/11 on Health Populi

By 2050, the demand for long-term care (LTC) workers will more than double in the developed world, from Norway and New Zealand to Japan and the U.S. Aging populations with growing incidence of disabilities, looser family ties, and more women in the labor force are driving this reality. This is a multi-dimensional problem which requires looking beyond the issue of the simple aging demographic.

Help Wanted? is an apt title for the report from The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), subtitled, “providing and paying for long-term care.” The report details the complex forces exacerbating the LTC carer shortage, focusing on the fact that current policies to address this future are fragmented and piecemeal. Instead, OECD argues, policymakers must smartly weave together a comprehensive approach that addresses the many facets of the problem.

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