Last Updated on March 17, 2022 by David Vause
On occasion, as a counter to not doing anything about our non-existent health care system, a politician will use nationalist rhetoric as a dodge asserting that the United States has the best healthcare in the world. In reality, we have a Darwinian jungle of insurance companies, Big Pharma, and Big Medicine all preying on the wallets of unsuspecting Americans. The result is undoubtedly the most expensive health care in the world. But it’s a patchy confused mess of insurance plans modulated by various state and federal laws delivering a product of questionable quality.
I decided to do a little research on this. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, known as the OECD, is an international consortium of primarily highly developed countries. Its goals are to stimulate economic progress and world trade. They offer extensive data on the economies and national well-being of member states at OECD Data.
In January 2022, I downloaded data sets on national expenditure on healthcare and two measures of national health: life expectancy at birth and neonatal death rates. I created some bar charts of my findings, which I share here. The data for GDP and life expectancy are for 2019. The neonatal death rates are from 2018 because 2019 data from the United States was unavailable.
The first corroborates something pretty much all of us know. We have the most expensive health delivery system in the world. The first graph displays national expenditure on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product or GDP. In the cost department, the United States runs away with first place. Compare this with the costs for some countries renowned for the “socialized” healthcare systems, Japan and the Scandinavian countries, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Now that we have an idea of the costs consider performance measurements. Two come to mind: life expectancy at birth and neonatal death rates.
First is life expectancy at birth by country. U.S. performance here is dismal. Of the countries that I highlight, only Russia’s performance is worse. Note that every country to the right of the United States has free and universal health care.
Lastly, consider neonatal death rates by country. For a country that prides itself on family well-being, the U.S. performance is a disgrace. As with life expectancy, Japan pretty much leads the way, followed by “socialist’ Scandinavia.
In an era of conspiracy theories, alt-facts, and believe whatever makes you feel good, America will continue to weaken unless we adopt fact-based, empirical approaches to decision making. This is particularly true in health policy and response to global warming.