U.S. healthcare spending far outpaces other countries

Spending on healthcare in the United States continued to far outpace other industrialized countries in 2009, according to a new tally by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Healthcare spending in the U.S. accounted for 17.4% of the nation’s total economic output, nearly twice the average of 34 OECD countries, the OECD found.

The next biggest health spender – the Netherlands – spent just 12% of its gross domestic product on medical care.

Spending per capita on healthcare, which hit $7,960 in 2009, also far exceeded that of even some of the richest countries in Western Europe. France, Belgium and Britain spent less than half what the U.S. did per person.


Unlike all but two other industrialized countries, American healthcare is mostly privately financed, although public spending on health has been growing steadily.

But because the nation’s healthcare tab is so high, government spending per capita is still higher in the U.S. than in every other industrialized country except Norway and the Netherlands.

Even governments in countries with single-payer or socialized systems such as Canada and Britain spent less per-capita on healthcare than government in the U.S.

In addition to threatening public sector budgets, the nation’s skyrocketing healthcare tab worries many healthcare experts because there is growing evidence that healthcare systems in other countries are outperforming the American system.

Most other OECD countries have made far greater progress in recent decades in reducing child mortality and extending life expectancy, studies show.