The study by researchers at Harvard University and the London School of Economics disputes the long-held belief U.S. costs are high because patients see doctors too often or otherwise abuse the healthcare system. "This gap and the challenges it poses for American consumers, policymakers, and business leaders was a major impetus for healthcare reform in the US, including delivery reforms implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act", said senior author Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard Chan School and Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI).
'The reasons for these substantially higher costs have been misunderstood: These data suggest that numerous policy efforts in the U.S. have not been truly evidence-based, ' Dr Jha said.
For this study, Woskie and her colleagues pulled together comprehensive data comparing USA health care against that of 10 other leading countries - the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark. However, on a per capita basis, the United States spends much more than any other country: $9451 in 2015, compared to Germany's $5267. Health care accounts for nearly 18% of the U.S.'s GDP, compared to 9.6% to 12.4% in the other developed countries, the paper says. He notes, for example, that while USA doctors make high salaries, there are fewer doctors per capita than in other countries, so the total cost of paying doctors isn't far out of line with countries like Germany or The Netherlands.
Meanwhile, US life expectancy in the US was the lowest of all 11 countries in the study, at 78.8 years.
But commonly held beliefs for these differences appear at odds with the evidence, the study found.
The U.S. had a lower percentage of its population covered by health insurance (90 percent) than those other rich countries, where 99.8 percent to 100 percent were covered.
The American numbers for physician and nursing workforce and number of hospital beds were similar to the other nations.
The US spends about three times more on healthcare, per capita, than the UK.
With only 2.9 beds per 1,000 people, the U.S. falls way below other developed countries, especially compared to Japan's 13.2 and Germany's 8.2.
Despite this, the USA still lags behind all other developed countries when it comes to the quality of said healthcare.
Infant mortality in the USA was the highest of any country in the study.
America has "the best outcomes for those who have heart attacks or strokes, but is below average for avoidable hospitalizations for patients with diabetes and asthma", said the report.
Instead, high prices for labor and goods, including drugs, procedures and administrative services, seemed to be the major reasons, according to the analysis.
Administrative costs on health care consume 8 percent of the U.S.'s GDP, compared to a range of 1 percent to 3 percent in other countries.
The US also spend more money on drugs, with each American spending more than $1,443 a year on pharmaceuticals, while others nations spend between $466 and $939.
Some individual USA states, however, have outcomes on par with other high-income countries. Prices of drugs like cholesterol-lowering Crestor or diabetes medication Lantus were more than twice as high in the US than in other countries.
"As the USA continues to struggle with high healthcare spending, it is critical that we make progress on curtailing these costs. Global comparisons are very valuable-they allow for reflection on national performance and serve to promote accountability", said first author Irene Papanicolas, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard Chan School.
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Jha said whether the United States moves toward more private healthcare, as advocated by Republicans, or to single-payer healthcare, as advocated by liberal Democrats, price tags on all American health services need to be addressed.
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