Cost of health care

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By Richard P. Holm, MD

Economists often explain high health care costs by comparing the selection of food at the grocery store when someone else is paying. The analogy still works but with a twist. Reported in a recent medical journal, Harvard researchers looked at health care spending here in the U.S. compared to the 10 next highest income countries of the world. They found that, in 2016, we spent almost 18% of our gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. Spending was much less for other countries, ranging from about 9.5% in Switzerland to 12.5% in Australia. That’s a significant difference!

Most surprising was that the problem in the U.S. did NOT appear to be from overutilization (getting too much care) as many have previously thought. Overall, people in the U.S. saw the doctor and were sent to the hospital about as frequently as people from other nations. The quality of the care received was also comparable.


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