The High Cost of Health(care)

You get what you pay for. That old adage may not necessarily apply to the world of health and healthcare. At least, not if you look at two new papers just released on healthcare spending.

From National Public Radio (NPR):

The United States spends the most on health care per person — $9,237 – according to two new papers published in the journal The Lancet.

Somalia spends the least – just $33 per person.

The data covering 184 countries was collected and analyzed by the Global Burden of Disease Health Financing Collaborator Network, a network of investigators from around the world with expertise in various aspects of health care. In between those two extremes, the spending is quite literally all over the map. And the amount of spending doesn’t necessarily translate into better health care.

According to the Motley Fool, “Perhaps a more meaningful point of comparison is that the average high-income country spent $5,251 per capita in 2014. This figure suggests that the average American paid nearly 80% more, on average, than a person in a typical high-income country. What’s even more amazing is that Americans paid more per capita in 2014 than the 85 cheapest countries in the world combined!”

When it comes to the question of whether we are getting what we pay for, a recent story in Bloomberg.com would suggest we are not. The U.S. was ranked the 28th healthiest nation in the world behind countries such as Malta, Cyprus, and Slovenia.

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Bloomberg wrote, “The U.S. scores its highest marks in water, sanitation, and child development. That’s the upside. Unsurprisingly, interpersonal violence (think gun crime) takes a heavy toll on America’s overall ranking. Response to natural disasters, HIV, suicide, obesity, and alcohol abuse all require attention in the U.S.”

Time Magazine added that the recent studies also show there is growing inequality in our country when it comes to income disparities and health outcomes.

Poverty has always been linked to poorer health outcomes, because people in lower income groups cannot afford as much health care and also tend to adopt less healthy habits, such as smoking and eating an unhealthy diet. But in recent years, several trends have worsened this connection, the researchers say. Poverty rates have increased, along with obesity and chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, which can contribute to early death.

We’d love to hear what you think about the research and the results. Are you surprised that we pay the most and yet – are still ranked 28th in global health? What can we do to change that? And what about the widening gap that is making it more difficult for low-income Americans’ to access or afford quality health care? Driving meaningful conversations and looking for innovative solutions to the health issues making headlines, are two more ways we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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