Better Solutions for Healthcare

Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker: How do healthcare prices and use in the U.S. compare to other countries?

How do healthcare prices and use in the U.S. compare to other countries?
Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker
May 8, 2018

Total health spending is a function of both price paid to providers or for drugs and the volume of services used. These charts explore prices and use of health services in the U.S. relative to comparable countries (those with both a total GDP above the median for OECD countries and a per capita GDP greater than the OECD median). While available data are limited to select services and drugs, we find that higher prices – more so than utilization – explain the United States’ high health spending relative to other high-income countries.

The U.S. has higher prices for most health care services and prescription drugs, according to available internationally comparable data. Meanwhile, utilization of several services, including physician consultations and hospital stays, is lower than in many comparable countries. Use of some services, such as C-sections and knee replacements, is higher in the U.S. than in similar countries.

Despite having fewer office visits and shorter average hospital stays, the U.S. overall spends twice as much per person on healthcare than do comparable countries.

These charts accompany an analysis showing how prices for health services in the U.S. have grown over time.

On average, other wealthy countries spend half as much per person on healthcare than the U.S.

In 2016 the U.S. spent 18% of its GDP on healthcare, whereas the next highest country (Switzerland) devoted 12% of its GDP to healthcare. The average amount spent on healthcare per person in comparable countries ($5,198) is half that of the U.S. ($10,348).

The U.S. has fewer physician consultations per capita than most comparable countries

Aside from Sweden, the U.S. has the fewest physician consultations per capita among similarly wealthy countries. In 2015, comparable countries saw an average of 7.6 total consultations per person at physician offices, hospital outpatient departments, and emergency rooms, while the U.S. averaged 3.9 consultations per person.

The U.S. has fewer physicians per capita relative to similar countries (2.6 per 1,000 in 2013 compared to the comparable country average of 3.4).

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