Recent data collected by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) now shows that the U.S. is spending more on healthcare coverage than any other developed country, despite the fact that American citizens still have the highest obesity percentage worldwide (28.6%) and the 8th lowest life expectancy worldwide (78.7 years). The report states that the U.S. spent about $8,745 in healthcare costs per capita in 2012, which is approximately $2,500 more than Norway, which grabbed second place in healthcare expenditure in 2012.
Although ideally a higher healthcare expenditure should mean that citizens generally experience better health, it appears that many developed nations still struggle with basic healthcare problems. Luca Lorenzoni, a health economist who is familiar with the data, suggests that higher spending is due to the complex American system. A greater variety of services and better technology are available in the U.S., but the country still struggles with a fragmented insurance system which drives up prices. Lorenzoni notes that health insurance is tightly connected to employment, which results in a decline in overall health during an economic crisis (such as the recession that Americans have been feeling for almost ten years).
Why Should Americans Care About This Data?
Quite simply, these findings show that spending more on health care doesn’t ensure better health. A remarkably low number of Americans (roughly eight million) took advantage of the new Affordable Care Act, according to the Wall Street Journal, meaning that a substantial number of citizens are still depending on private insurance for health care costs — if they have insurance at all. Many Americans who find themselves without healthcare insurance will delay receiving medical treatment, which usually results in a worsening condition which requires treatment at hospitals. Many people aren’t aware that family walk in clinics are located across the country and can provide immediate treatment, 24 hours a day, often at a lower cost than a visit to the ER.
This recent OECD data supports the popular notion that the U.S. is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world, but it also shows that many Americans aren’t aware of the different services available. And unless a public insurance system develops in the near future, educating citizens about their options should be an essential part of the healthcare system.