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Why do Americans spend significantly more on health care than comparable countries? A new report from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation explores what is driving the spending disparity.
In 2018, the U.S. spent nearly twice as much per capita on health care as countries of similar size and wealth. Researchers found most of the additional dollars are spent on hospitals and physicians, which includes primary care or specialist visits, surgical care, and facility and professional fees.
The difference ads up: Each American spent on average $6,624 on this care, compared with $2,718 per person in other countries.
Consider, too, that patients in the U.S. have shorter average hospital stays and fewer physician visits, despite paying more for these services.
Spending on prescription drugs was also much higher in the U.S. The study notes that Americans spent $1,397 per person on drugs in 2018, while other countries spent $884 per person.
Despite higher prescription drug prices, it is still outpaced by hospitals and physician costs which account for the majority of American healthcare spending. Not only are Americans spending 243 percent more on these services than comparable countries, but also these payments make up a larger share of total spending (62 percent compared with 49 percent).
The researchers believe that while the political discourse centers on prescription drug prices and administrative costs, lowering the spending on inpatient and outpatient hospital and physician care would make a bigger difference.
Do you think lawmakers should focus on high hospital and physician bills as a way to lower overall health care spending? Share your thoughts with Voices for Affordable Health.