Health Care Spending Rising Fastest in the U.S.

NCHC Writers
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The latest annual analysis of health care data from 29 industrialized nations shows that health care spending in the United States continues to rise faster than in most other nations.

The study – conducted by Gerard F. Anderson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Jean-Pierre Poullier of the World Health Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland – found that health care spending in the U.S. climbed an average 4.3 percent per year between 1990 and 1997. The average for all 29 industrialized nations was 3.8 percent. The rate of increase in Canada was 2.7 percent.

Henry E. Simmons, M.D., president of the National Coalition on Health Care, said the study serves as yet another reminder that the growth in U.S. health costs must be restrained. “Even with managed care and government efforts, our health care cost problem persists,” Simmons said. “It is making health care and health insurance unaffordable for more and more Americans every day.”

The study, published in the May/June issue of the journal Health Affairs, found per capita health spending highest in the U.S., at $3,925 per person – with 13.5 percent of the nation’ gross domestic product (GDP) being spent on health care. The average per capita expenditure for all nations was $1,728, with an average 7.5 percent of GDP being spent on health care. Per capita health spending was $2,095 in Canada, $2,339 in Germany, $1,347 in Great Britain, and $2,051 in France.

Even as it spends more on health care, the U.S. guarantees health insurance coverage to fewer of its citizens than any other industrialized nation, the study found. All 29 nations, except Turkey, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United States, assured health insurance in 1997 to 99-100 percent of citizens – either through a government health program, private sector coverage mandated by the government, or a combination of the two. Government-assured health insurance covered 92.2 percent of the population in Germany, 72 percent in Mexico and the Netherlands, 66 percent in Turkey, and 33 percent in the United States. Medicare and Medicaid account for most of the government-guaranteed coverage in the U.S.; 51 percent of U.S. citizens have private health insurance and 16 percent have no health insurance.

The study also found that the health status of the U.S. population lags behind that of most other industrialized nations.

“We aren’t getting our money’s worth in health care,” Simmons said. “We outspend everybody but leave more than 43 million people uninsured. It’s a national embarrassment.”

The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s most broadly representative, non-partisan and non-profit alliance seeking to improve America’s health and health care system. It’s nearly 100 members include large and small businesses, labor unions, consumer groups, health professional and religious organizations. Former Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald R. Ford serve as the Coalition’s Honorary Co-Chairs. Coalition reports on health care costs and coverage, including one released this month – Down a Dangerous Path: The Erosion of Health Insurance Coverage in the United States – are available by calling (202) 637-6830 or through the Coalition’s web site,

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