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As Per Capita Health Spending Continues to Increase in the United States, Key Measures of Success Lagging Behind Other Developed Countrie

(Photo Taken from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Healthcare spending in the United States has always been among the most critical political issues the country has faced over the past century. Despite spending the most per capita on healthcare in the developed world, the United States has the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates out of any country. The US spends more than $12,000 per person per capita on healthcare, but people in the U.S. can expect to live three to four years less than others in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. According to data from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in the United States in 2019 was 77.3, a 5% decrease. The statistic shows a steady reduction in Americans' well-being and health as the country's GDP increases. Other countries, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Canada, have universal health care systems.. While the U.S. government spends around $10,945, on average for each citizen’s healthcare, countries like the United Kingdom and Canada only pay $4,500 and $5,730 on healthcare. The U.S. spends almost 2x more than other Anglosphere countries with poorer health outcomes such as a lower life expectancy rate and a higher infant mortality rate of 5.4 per 1000 births. According to Morgane Brun, who works at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in London, “The United Kingdom’s focus on lowering drug costs and maintaining the National Healthcare System has led to higher public healthcare outcomes while also boosting confidence from patients who receive better health outcomes.” Infant mortality rates have increasingly decreased globally since the advent of new technologies that could help alleviate more deaths. However, the United States still has the highest infant mortality rate of developed countries with a rate of 5.4, compared to 3.1 in Germany and Denmark and a rate of 4.4 in Canada. Although the United States infant mortality rate itself has dropped 73.7% from 20.6 to 5.4, it’s still a worrying number that has caused many to worry about the potential state of the economy. Why is the U.S. Spending More and Getting Less? The United States has the highest GDP on earth with a total amount of $19 trillion. It is the richest nation in human history and has one of the strongest militaries and the highest population totals on Earth with 324 million people. I want to provide readers with a graphic look at the current situation of healthcare on the ground in the United States and figure out why we are spending more on healthcare and getting less favourable outcomes. According to Johan Mathisen who works at the World Bank, “In looking at the US versus the European countries, for example, you may want to look at prescription drug costs across the same group of countries, which could help explain some of the differences in cost spending per capita that you are seeing. To put it another way, differences in healthcare spending per capita (without the corresponding variation in health outcomes), seem associated with macro factors such as income inequality, levels of corruption, age, or density of its population, or with market structure characteristics such as government intervention and pricing.” Differences in Pharmaceutical Costs In 2021, the United States had the highest pharmaceutical spending in the world with an average of $1,310 dollars spent per capita. In comparison, the next highest spender per capita on pharmaceutical spending, Germany, spends $910 dollars per capita. While other countries compete with the U.S. in spending, drug prices in the United States are much higher than in other countries. For example, according to the RAND Corporation, the average price of insulin in the United States in 2018 was $98.70 with insulin in Canada, France, and Germany averaging a price of only $10.69. These health discrepancies have affected Americans’ ability to access life-saving medications like insulin and other antibiotics that could help treat viral diseases and health problems. Lack of Efficiency Countries with universal healthcare have lower administrative costs because things are managed centrally. In contrast, the United States has a private insurance-based system that favours healthcare executives over consumers. According to data from MoneyGeek, Americans pay an average of around $456 per month on health insurance, amounting to nearly $6,000 dollars a year. Along with the cost of healthcare, many people must pay deductibles which increase their prices even more. As a result, people struggle to get the care they need at a fast and efficient pace, creating longer waiting times and causing more people to avoid seeking medical attention for their injuries, sicknesses, or health problems. Other people unnecessarily use hospital emergency rooms to get care faster. This gap in receiving health care and high costs overwhelms people working in the healthcare sector, especially those working as doctors, nurses, EMTs, and general hospital staff. Americans live in a country where their health is on a slow downturn due to high healthcare costs, unsustainable private healthcare systems, and increased spending that doesn’t address key issues such as higher child mortality rates and a dwindling life expectancy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jocelyn Willis works as a regional sales manager at Fresenius Medical Care North America, a company that specialises in medicine, medical care, and improving people’s lives through medicine. When asked about the impact of the rising cost of drugs in the U.S., Ms Willis said, “The reason that drug prices are rising in the US is because of a lack of government subsidization and private companies hiking prices due to a lack of regulation. Although other countries have subsidization for medicine, the United States has a system built to allow private companies to distribute medicine, making it harder for consumers.” As the price of crucial drugs continues to increase, politicians and government officials struggle to find a way to negotiate fair deals for American citizens. Experts seeing the data present might consider quite a few options to alleviate these problems, with national health care bills and support for universal health care at an all-time high in the United States. However, the continuing trends look bleak for the U.S. as the country continues to feel the inequities caused by a lack of sustainable healthcare.


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