US Health Spending Highest of Developed Countries

January 3, 2007 ( - Health spending per capita in the US is much higher than in other countries - at least 24% higher than in the next highest spending countries, and over 90% higher than in many other countries that would be considered global competitors, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Using information from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to compare the level and growth rate of health care spending in the US with other OECD countries, Kaiser found that not only has the US spent more per capita on health care than other countries, but the it has had one of the highest growth rates in per capita health care spending since 1980 among higher income countries.

The US average annual growth rate (4.4% from 1980 to 2003) was the second highest among the countries analyzed, following Luxembourg at a 5.6% average annual growth rate. Over the same period, health care spending as a share of GDP in the US grew from 8.8% to 15.2%, a larger gain than seen in other countries that were analyzed, Kaiser said.

According to Kaiser’s analysis, the combination of the high level of spending in 1980 and the high level of growth rate since 1980 has resulted in the very high level of spending per capita in the US now. Other countries with spending levels comparable to the US in 1980 have not had such a high level of growth rate in health spending.

By comparison, total health expenditures as a percentage of GDP in 2003 was 11.5% in Switzerland, 10.4% in France, 9.9% in Canada, and 7.8% in the UK, according to data used by Kaiser. The 6.4% change in total health care expenditures from 1980 to 2003 as a percentage of GDP seen in the US was significantly higher than in any other country analyzed. The percentage change was 4.1% in Switzerland, 3.4% in France, 2.8% in Canada and 2.2% in the UK.

The Kaiser Snapshot entitled Health Care Spending in the United States and Other OECD Countries is here .