America generally suffers in health care comparisons with our developed competitors - especially when it comes to spending, where the U.S. is portrayed as an inefficient outlier. The mismatch between costs and outcomes is then used to justify increased government intervention in U.S. health care markets.
In this first of a series of posts on U.S. health care metrics, we'll take a look at how current comparisons are often misleading, where the U.S. health care system may be inefficient, and finally what policy solutions are available for improving U.S. health system performance, without wrecking what the U.S. does well - developing innovative new drugs and diagnostics.
"We spend too much." That's the constant refrain from many health care experts.
Whether on a per-capita basis or in absolute terms, we are constantly reminded that the US leads the developed world in health expenditures - evidence of our broken and inefficient healthcare arrangements. Take this figure, from a 2011 OECD report, which finds that the U.S. spends more than twice the OECD average on health care.
Critics would argue that these higher prices are evidence in and of themselves of the failures of our system and the virtues of the single-payer model - we will address these unfounded criticisms in later posts.
By using health-spending adjusted PPP, the differences between the US and other OECD countries is much less pronounced than those sounding the seventh trumpet would like us to believe.
Even by this measure, however, we retain our leadership. In coming posts we will address the deeper issues - Do we get better or worse health outcomes for our spending? What drives the increase in spending? And, finally, is more government control the only way we address our health care challenges?