Why do we spend so much more on health care than other countries? In 2003, Gerard Anderson and Uwe Reinhard et al. explained, It’s the prices stupid: Why the US is so different from other countries. But, some very intelligent people believe otherwise. A new international study on health care spending, by Irene Papanicolas, PhD, Liana Woskie, MSc and Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, confirms, it’s the prices, stupid.
These researchers looked at health care services in other countries to better understand why the US spends about twice as much per capita as other countries. In a Vox interview, Jha explained that he was surprised by their findings. Contrary to what he had been telling people, excessive use of specialty care has not been responsible for high health care spending in the US. Indeed, the US has about the same mix of primary care and specialty care as other wealthy countries. And, health care in the US looks a lot like health care in other countries.
Americans visit the doctor about as frequently as people in other comparable countries. Indeed, we go to the doctor and use the hospital slightly less on average than other wealthy countries. We do get more CAT scans and knee replacements than people in every other country. And, we get more MRIs than people in other countries, with the exception of Germany. But, we get significantly fewer hip replacements than the Swiss, the Germans, the Danes, the French and the Swedes.
Rather than quantity of services, the data show that the big difference between the US and other countries is that we spend more on drugs, devices, labor and services. Jha also thinks Americans use too many services. But, so do people in peer countries. To look more like those countries, we need to address the prices we pay for our services and our administrative costs. Focusing on utilization will not rein in spending sufficiently.
Here’s more from Just Care:
- How the US should negotiate drug prices
- If commercial insurers paid hospitals Medicare rates, spending would drop 31 percent
- To save money on your care, consider using a free health clinic
- Free and low-cost ways to address hearing loss
- Five steps to get your affairs in order in case of a health emergency