Health Team

Study: US spends more on health care, has less access to doctors than other countries

Posted January 8, 2019 5:35 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2019 6:13 p.m. EST

People in the U.S. spend twice as much on health care as people in other countries, according to an analysis by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The research, which will appear in the January issue of Health Affairs, found that the U.S. remains an outlier in terms of per-capita health care spending. The nation's $9,892 figure in 2016 was about 25 percent higher than second-place Switzerland's $7,919 and was more than double Canada's $4,753.

The higher spending isn't because Americans use more health care-related services than people in other developed nations, researchers said. They pointed to other factors:

  • Drugs cost more in the U.S.
  • Doctors and nurses are paid better here.
  • Hospital administration and medical services are more expensive as well.

"In spite of all the efforts in the U.S. to control health spending over the past 25 years, the story remains the same – the U.S. remains the most expensive because of the prices the U.S pays for health services," lead author Gerard Anderson, a professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management said in a statement.

Overall U.S. health spending increased at an average rate of 2.8 percent annually between 2000 and 2016. During the same period, U.S. gross domestic product per capita increased by only 0.9 percent annually, which means that health care continues to represent a larger share of GDP.

Consolidation among hospitals and physician practices allows them to demand higher prices, Anderson said, noting that causes another problem. Americans have less access to doctors, nurses and hospital beds than in other developed countries.

The researchers found that, in 2015, the most recent year for which data were available in the U.S., there were only 7.9 practicing nurses and 2.6 practicing physicians per 1,000 people.