U.S. first in health spending and worst on major health indicators: JAMA Network

The United States ranks first in spending and worst in obesity, life expectancy and infant mortality, compared to other high-income countries, according to a March 2018 article in JAMA Network by Irene Papanicolas, PhD; Liana R. Woskie, MSc1; and Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH1.

Here are the findings:
“In 2016, the US spent 17.8% of its gross domestic product on health care, and spending in the other countries ranged from 9.6% (Australia) to 12.4% (Switzerland). The proportion of the population with health insurance was 90% in the US, lower than the other countries (range, 99%-100%), and the US had the highest proportion of private health insurance (55.3%). For some determinants of health such as smoking, the US ranked second lowest of the countries (11.4% of the US population ≥15 years smokes daily; mean of all 11 countries, 16.6%), but the US had the highest percentage of adults who were overweight or obese at 70.1% (range for other countries, 23.8%-63.4%; mean of all 11 countries, 55.6%). Life expectancy in the US was the lowest of the 11 countries at 78.8 years (range for other countries, 80.7-83.9 years; mean of all 11 countries, 81.7 years), and infant mortality was the highest (5.8 deaths per 1000 live births in the US; 3.6 per 1000 for all 11 countries). The US did not differ substantially from the other countries in physician workforce (2.6 physicians per 1000; 43% primary care physicians), or nursing workforce (11.1 nurses per 1000). The US had comparable numbers of hospital beds (2.8 per 1000) but higher utilization of magnetic resonance imaging (118 per 1000) and computed tomography (245 per 1000) vs other countries. The US had similar rates of utilization (US discharges per 100 000 were 192 for acute myocardial infarction, 365 for pneumonia, 230 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; procedures per 100 000 were 204 for hip replacement, 226 for knee replacement, and 79 for coronary artery bypass graft surgery). Administrative costs of care (activities relating to planning, regulating, and managing health systems and services) accounted for 8% in the US vs a range of 1% to 3% in the other countries. For pharmaceutical costs, spending per capita was $1443 in the US vs a range of $466 to $939 in other countries. Salaries of physicians and nurses were higher in the US; for example, generalist physicians salaries were $218 173 in the US compared with a range of $86 607 to $154 126 in the other countries.”

Here are the conclusions and relevance:

“The United States spent approximately twice as much as other high-income countries on medical care, yet utilization rates in the United States were largely similar to those in other nations. Prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals, and administrative costs appeared to be the major drivers of the difference in overall cost between the United States and other high-income countries. As patients, physicians, policy makers, and legislators actively debate the future of the US health system, data such as these are needed to inform policy decisions.”