U.S. still spends more than any other country on healthcare

The United States continues to lead the developed world in per-capita healthcare expenditures while trailing other countries in results, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund.

The study determined that per capita spending in the U.S. reached $9,086 in 2013. That's nearly 50 percent higher than Switzerland, the second-ranked country in terms of spending. Most of the other industrialized countries, such as Australia, Denmark, Germany, France and Canada, keep their per capita spending below $5,000. Some countries, such as Japan--which has the world's highest life expectancy--the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have per capita costs below $4,000.

The average American spent $1,074 for out-of-pocket costs in 2013, with Switzerland the only country that was higher at $1,630. Many other countries were well under $300. But private expenditures for premiums, at $3,442, were more than five times than what was spent in Canada, the second highest-spending country at $654.

At the same time, the average American visits his or her doctor only four times per year. That's the third-lowest total. And Americans have 126 hospital discharges per 1,000 people, half the rate of Germany, where per capita spending is $4,920. Meanwhile, prescription drugs in the U.S. are the world's most expensive, while a heart bypass procedure costs nearly five times as much here than in the Netherlands.

"Time and again, we see evidence that the amount of money we spend on healthcare in this country is not gaining us comparable health benefits," said Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, M.D., in a statement. "We have to look at the root causes of this disconnect and invest our healthcare dollars in ways that will allow us to live longer while enjoying better health and greater productivity." 

At the same time, the medical debt of Americans continues to grow, with a Commonwealth Fund study from last year concluding that 64 million of them had some difficulty paying their bills. And yet another study by the not-for-profit think tank has concluded that rising healthcare costs has scared off some Americans from seeking key preventive care services.

To learn more:
- read the Commonwealth study
- check out the Commonwealth statement