How Do U.S. Health Costs Compare to Other Countries?

View an interactive map with health costs for each country, and read our first-ever International Issue online Feb. 1.
by | January 27, 2013

For more on the best ideas and biggest challenges beyond America's borders, read our first-ever International Issue, which can be viewed online Feb. 1.

Countries across the globe have attempted to restrain health care costs in recent years, but perhaps nowhere is the problem more apparent than here in the United States.

Americans’ health spending per capita topped all other countries in 2010, climbing to $8,362, according to the World Health Organization. The total bill, slightly more than half of which is publically funded, more than doubles that of Japan, Great Britain and New Zealand – all of which provide universal health care.

One of the primary drivers of U.S. spending is the high cost of health goods and services. A report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found hospital services cost about 60 percent more here than 12 other member nations studied. By contrast, Japan tightly controls prices with national fee schedules setting caps on nearly all health services.

Of course, the aging U.S. population has contributed to rising spending, but many countries are growing older even faster. The portion of Americans older than 65 is less than the OECD average. Americans also don’t smoke much more than those in other nations. If there’s one area where the U.S. does stand out, though, it’s our much higher obesity rates.

We’ve compiled total public and private WHO spending data into the following map to illustrate the disparity in countries' per capita health spending for 2010. Incomes strongly correlate with spending, so poorer countries generally have vastly lower totals.

Click the map to open a full-screen, interactive page with figures for each country.

Total Public and Private Spending Per Person
 <$100  >$100   >$500   >$1000   >$4000   >$7000

In terms of government expenditures, the U.S. still ranks high, with the world’s six-highest total spending:

  • Luxembourg: $6905.53
  • Norway: $6788.39
  • Monaco: $5569.66
  • Denmark: $5465.09
  • Switzerland: $4610.77
  • United States: $4436.61



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