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14 July 2022

The US trails the world on value for money from healthcare

America spends more on healthcare than any developed country but has one of the lowest life expectancy rates.

By Michael Goodier

The United States has fallen behind the developed world in value for money from healthcare.

Americans spend far more on health than other developed countries, yet life expectancy in the US is shorter. The gap between the US and other wealthy countries has worsened over the past 50 years.

Analysis by Max Roser of Our World in Data found that the US was behind other developed nations on a variety of health metrics. The country has a higher death rate from smoking, obesity and road accidents than other wealthy countries; it has a far higher death rate from opioid overdoses; and it has the highest homicide rate among other developed nations. The US also stands out for having greater poverty and inequality than the other countries on this chart, as well as higher infant mortality, which has a large effect on life expectancy figures.

Healthcare in the US is run through an insurance system, and unlike other countries not everyone is universally covered – about 10.3 per cent of Americans were uninsured in 2019, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Runaway prices is one reason the US spends more on healthcare. Insulin, for example, costs more than eight times as much in the US than it does in 32 developed countries combined, the Rand Corporation think tank found. The system also suffers from wasteful overuse of technology. American doctors are far more likely to perform CT and MRI scans on patients, even when they are unnecessary.

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[See also: The NHS is under strain from Covid-19 once again]

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