U.S. Healthcare Is A Global Outlier (And Not In A Good Way)

Tyler Durden's picture

Historically, the United States has spent more money than any other country on healthcare.

In the late 1990s, for example, the U.S. spent roughly 13% of GDP on healthcare, compared to about a 9.5% average for all high income countries.

However, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, in recent years, the difference has become more stark. Last year, as Obamacare continued to roll out, costs in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 17.5% of GDP. That’s over $3 trillion spent on healthcare annually, and the rate of spending is expected accelerate over the next decade.


With all that money being poured into healthcare, surely the U.S. must be getting better care in contrast to other high income countries.

At least, that’s what one would think.

Today’s chart comes to us from economist Max Roser (h/t @NinjaEconomics) and it shows the extreme divergence of the U.S. healthcare system using two simple stats: life expectancy vs. health expenditures per capita.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist



As you can see, Americans are spending more money – but they are not receiving results using the most basic metric of life expectancy. The divergence starts just before 1980, and it widens all the way to 2014.

It’s worth noting that the 2015 statistics are not plotted on this chart. However, given that healthcare spend was 17.5% of GDP in 2015, the divergence is likely to continue to widen. U.S. spending is now closing in on $10,000 per person.

Perhaps the most concerning revelation from this data?

Not only is U.S. healthcare spending wildly inefficient, but it’s also relatively ineffective. It would be one thing to spend more money and get the same results, but according to the above data that is not true. In fact, Americans on average will have shorter lives people in other high income countries.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has nearly flatlined, and it hasn’t yet crossed the 80 year threshold. Meanwhile, Chileans, Greeks, and Israelis are all outliving their American counterparts for a fraction of the associated costs.

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Mike in GA's picture

Where's Cuba's health care miracle?  China's?  

sinbad2's picture

How is that in anyway relevant, it's sort of like Hitler saying Stalin was heaps worse than me.

But Cubans live on average a year longer than Americans, which is pretty good for a nation that has suffered under US sanctions for over 50 years.

China, I looked it up here http://www.infoplease.com/world/statistics/life-expectancy-country.html

comes in at 75.41 so yes Americans live longer than Chinese, that is such a cool accomplishment.

TBT or not TBT's picture

And Cuban performance stats are rock solid Castro governmemt figures that always please the Castros.   It's a commie thing.  

roddy6667's picture


Life expectancy in Beijing and Shanghai has reached 80 years and it's 82 in Hong Kong. All have massive pollution problems. Life expectancy in Berlin is 79.8, San Francisco and New York are barely 80 and the list goes on. With its population centers performing so well you might expect the entire country to have a high ranking, but that's not the case.

roddy6667's picture

Here's another:

Does Hong Kong Have The World's Best Health Care System?




The citizens of HK are some of the healthiest people in the world. Their women outlive everybody, and the men run a close second to the Japanese men.


Déjà view's picture


7. Hong Kong...............82.90 2016 EST.

42. United States..........79.80 2016 EST.


detached.amusement's picture

Cant even chew fucking GUM in hong kong.  F that place.

heresy101's picture

That Medicare for All in Canada sure looks better than Obamacare and anything that the Kochsuckers are proposing - 50% of the cost and 4 years longer life expectancy.

This needs to be the battle for the next year and hopefully President Trump will see the business logic of Medicare for All Americans!

Mikeyy's picture

You must be out of your mind.  Like seriously delusional.  Trump was elected on a platform of making Healthcare even more expensive and inefficient.  


You think he's going to socialize medicine?  That's hilarious.


I'm a betting man, and I bet that by the end of Trump's term, we're spending 20% of GDP on healthcare.  Any takers?

Wulfkind's picture

I'll take your bet and raise it by another 5%.  And a side bet that the "Great, Beautiful Wall" never gets built and the Swamp never gets drained.

MK13's picture

If you institute Canada care in US, US life expectrency drops by 5-10 years, book it. Believing libtards arguments that we are all equal in health outcomes because it should be so - not the case in reality.

If you take Central American level of health care to Finland, you will still get Scandinavian results. Such is reality.

OverTheHedge's picture

Are you saying that healthcare is irrelevant to life expectancy? It wouldn't actually surprise me, as non-intervention is normally better than invasive procedures and truck-loads of drugs. Or so the hippy-dippy tree-hugger types would have you believe. Of course, healthcare professionals would claim they make significant inroads, but perhaps diet and exercise is more important than medical care, statistically speaking. When I have a heart attack, I want me some healthcare, stat!

sinbad2's picture

I wouldn't count on it.

Private healthcare and insurance is very profitable 2 of the 3 trillion the US spends on healthcare would go to shareholders and management of healthcare companies.

Mr Trump is a businessman and a realist. The media would be calling him a commie if he tried to fix it.

KoRnFeD's picture

Kinda looks like another form of Planed Parenthood, doesn't it?

coast's picture

the united states is, maybe I should say "was" the jewel of the planet...the globalists are spneing most of their efforts on brining the U.S. down...I have been saying this, and seeing this for many years...I almost move to another country, but then I felt like those who I put down for coming to the U.S. instead of staying in their own country and fighting for your fredsoms and success, such as Mexico, who has beaches, agriculture, largest silver mining on the planet , great weather, tourists etc...I dunno tho, maybe i should have moved after all...Hitting us with flouride, chemtrails, cancer food, and so forth....I was hoping the battle would be with rifles where I might have a chance.

MK13's picture

As much crap as pesticides, food colorings and whatever garbage there is in US food - right calorie intake and correct life choices are the ultimate lifespan determinants. According to one nutritionist I respect, that stuff makes a percent dent in US longevity. Obesity, now that's the elephant in the room.

RichardParker's picture

I'd be willing to bet that High Fructose Corn Syrup consumption is much lower everywhere outside The US, leading to a lower incidence of diabetes and obesity, among other things.

Déjà view's picture

Never seen HFCS listed as ingredient in Canadian or European sweets...

In Tejas, Coca Cola is also imported from Mexico...many claim it tastes better when sugar is used as a sweetener...

HFCS is cheaper in U.S. than sugar...(sugar lobby)

Wulfkind's picture

It's not so much whether real sugar or HFCS is used.  It's that culture's propensity to eat sweets in general.  Which most countries do not....at least not like America.

However, that is changing and changing rapidly ever since American companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi and their associated brands of fast food joints began to invade every country on the planet.  Not to mention McDonald's.

rguptatx's picture

An overwhelming proportion of the total healthcare costs spent over a person's lifetime are incurred in the last 3-6 months of their life. The regulatory system that mandates that all persons - be they 80, 90 or whatever, suffering from whatever maladies, and facing whatever inevitable and imminent outcomes, must still be provided with insurance-funded (and now, obamacare-funded) critical care to the hilt, even if it costs $500K per day, because that is what the liberals see as being appropriate. Of course it is "appropriate" if it comes out of my pocket and yours, but not the patient's pocket - more wonders of socializm exposed and negated! 

sinbad2's picture

So you think that in places like Switerland and Australia just snuff out their old people if their care gets expensive?

TBT or not TBT's picture

There is some of that going on.  

Cosmicserpent's picture

Switzerland does have euthanasia. You don't even have to be terminally ill. Just show up and after a waiting period, you can have your ticket punched.

Xena fobe's picture

This is in part due to neglect. MDs don't provide the elderly with adequate preventative care.  They use age as an excuse to cut corners.  Hospitals are the same.  They initially deny treatment that if provided, would have solved the problem early.  Instead, the eldsrly person is sent home still sick and having to fight to obtain appropriate care.  Meanwhile, they are readmitted and exposed to infections. Hospitals and MDs need to do their job right the first time.

navy62802's picture

Modern example of socialist disaster. In a spectacular way.

honest injun's picture

I look at the chart and do not see that "it’s also relatively ineffective".  I see that it is working as designed ... to transfer as much as possible to the "owners" and to reduce the costs of the retirement program - by reducing the period that individuals are retired.

cherry picker's picture

Maybe life expectancy is not about health care.

It might have something to do with murder, suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism and eating till the sun don't shine.

I think the USA does all the aforementioned per capita more than other nations on the list.  Americans are essentially killing themselves with their life styles.

Fox Moulder's picture

Subtract out the money that goes to health insurance companies and see what the US spends on real healthcare.

Wulfkind's picture

" Subtract out the money that goes to health insurance companies and see what the US spends on real healthcare. "

Yep....it would be far less.  Of course....life expectancy would plummet by half a decade

We're seeing that now as even MOAR people have healthcare due to Obamacare....but still can't use it because of a $5,000 deductable just to make the monthly premiums affordable.

sinbad2's picture

Americans would not have it any other way.

The countries that have the most cost effective healthcare, are countries that provide government run health insurance.

Americans would never tolerate claiming helthcare costs back from a Government run health providor, like in Australia, or waisting taxpayers money building hospitals.


Americans have to pay for their belief that private for profit health insurance is cheaper and better than government provided insurance.

Xena fobe's picture

Americans would accept single payer.  But insurance companies would not.

dogsandhoney2's picture

and insurance companies are financial institutions first...
investing all those monthly payments.

Wulfkind's picture

I'm not a big fan of Single Payer.....but I had to wince every time I heard some Conservative blow hard radio talk show host prattle on and on about the so called "Death Panels" that would be set up under Obamacare.

Bullshit.  Death Panels have been part and parcel of the PRIVATE insurance racket for decades.  I know from personal experience.  My insurance I paid for out of my own pocket in the late 90's wanted to deny me a lifesaving drug called NUPAGEN which causes your bone marrow to rapidly generate new red blood cells that were being destroyed by the chemo I had to take for my cancer.

HUMANA said "NO" because NUPAGEN was not part of the prescribed method of treatment for the cancer I had.  Although it was LONG established as the drug of choice for those with chemotherapy induced anemia.  As my oncologist told the Humana rep on the phone...."Look, my patient will DIE if he is not given this drug because we will have to discontinue his treatment until his red blood count comes back naturally if at all.  They STILL said no.  So he told them to calculate the cost of 9 months of NUPAGEN at two shots per month vs how much my family would sue HUMANA over negligent homicide.  And he hung up.  HUMANA called back within 60 seconds and ok'd NUPAGEN for me.  That was in 1998.

We have had "Death Panels" for decades.  They're part of EVERY SINGLE HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY ON THE PLANET.

effendi's picture

BULL. I'm in Australia and there is so much wrong with our health care system. As an example take ambulance costs, those who work (such as myself) have to pay $349 plus another $3.15/km to take an ambulance to hospital; single mothers, junkies etc get free rides. End result is that the losers phone for an ambulance for just about any minor reason (like a stubbed toe or a paper cut) and the cost of that shit being put on the paying users makes it unaffordable for many, so much so that when I shattered my arm a few years ago (Comminuted Colles Fracture) I caught 2 buses plus walked a distance to get to the hospital because of the high costs of getting an ambulance. Luckily my surgery was done as a private patient as the wait for public patients to get the same operation was 2 weeks. Other types of surgery have much longer waiting periods for public patients (like 190 days for hip replacement and 296 days for knee replacement). The waiting periods would be much longer but many of the mostly elderly patients die before they get their operation (guess that is one way to shorten the queues).

Wulfkind's picture

Let me ask you mate.  Do you Aussies have what the Canadians have whereby you can get a low cost loan from the bank and go to America and get whatever procedure done and then send the bill to the goverment when you get back?

Abbie Normal's picture

And the Canadian govt. will reimburse you at the same rate they reimburse the Canadian healthcare providers -- roughly 1/4 to 1/10th what you paid to have the procedure done down south.  And now you're a debt-donkey for life just because you couldn't wait in line for a non-life-threatening injury or illness to be treated in due time.

MK13's picture

Whoever wrote the article obviously has art of observation down, but conclusions are way off. Missing the forest for the trees.

I Write Code's picture

As others have already posted, the US figures may include a lot of gunshot deaths and millions of illegal aliens.  I was surprised to see the US average under 80, are you sure of your figures?  We also have a lot more infant mortality than most other countries, is that counted in?

Life expectancy goes up contingent on having reached a certain age, those already age 60 probably have an expectancy of 85+ even in the US.  I suspect the numbers are just wedged here.

TheEndIsNear's picture

250,000 deaths in 2015 were due to medical error, the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015.

33,636 deaths due to "Injury by firearms" of which only 11,208 were homicides, 21,175 were self inflicted suicides, and the remainder were due to accidental/negligent discharge of a firearm or "undetermined intent".

andrewp111's picture

Medical error kills a lot of people - and many of those deaths are not recorded as such. My Division Head at work went in to a hospital for a bleeding ulcer in April, they gave him some drug that interacted with an inherited rare condition and he just got sicker and sicker as his liver failed. He got a liver transplant in September, but hospitals are dangerous places, and MRSA Pneumonia killed him.

Wulfkind's picture

If medical errors are a significant part of the life expectancy of the U.S. doesn't that just beg the question as to why we have so many fuck ups as doctors, nurses and surgeons in America?

I mean....what are they exactly teaching these numbnuts in medical school?

Or is it because these hospitals and HMO's are so blind with greed for the profit that they are cutting corners left and right ?

bonin006's picture

It would be interesting to see the US line split out by race and other factors, such as weight. Like David Collum said "...a person who weighs 850 pounds -- they're not going to make it into their 90s, right? "

brooklinite8's picture

When I was visiting India I saw few women administer a baby birth basically in few minutes with bare hands, water, oil and some sarees. Here in the US I believe the bill comes around 5-10k at the least. Did we ever ask the question as to why do we need insurance to afford health care? Did we ever ask how has it become so out of control? Why has healthcare become such a big business? Where are the morals of humanity? 

In USA the welfare of the state takes precedence to the welfare of the people. Human beings are valued at no different rate in USA than India. Welcome to the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Good Old USA. We are outliers and Everything we do should be an outlier. If not we will revisit and make sure it becomes an outlier. Lol

Canoe Driver's picture

The total cost per childbirth in the US is said to be $50-65k. This figure is so outrageous that it is impossible to correlate it with the cost of providing the services. It is simply a bunch of profiteers taking their cut. And the profit can be several hundred percent of the underlying cost, precisely because the "customer" has no choice at all. Capitalism, which works well in many contexts, fails miserably in medicine. Demand is infinite and inelastic in the medical field.

RichardParker's picture

Capitalism, which works well in many contexts, fails miserably in medicine...

The United States has not experienced capitalism in medicine since WWII. Wage and price controls instituted by FDR led to employee sponsored health insurance (among other things). 

It has been FASCISM since then.

Kill all of the government funding/subsidies for healthcare, i.e. medicare, medicaid, CHIP, etc as well as individual insurance mandate.  Then lower taxes to reflect the adjustment. 

Also legislate mandatory full price discosure on medical procedures for both individuals and insurance companies. 

Prices will come down.

all-priced-in's picture

My 8 month old grandson got some crap in his lungs while being born -


Doctor said it was pretty routine - they put him in the NICU for 14 days - no special treatments were given - except a very low level of O2.


The bill was over $2 million.  $6K an hour.


Insurance marketed it down to $45K and my daughter paid $6K (her max out of pocket).


How the fuck can a $2 million charge be considered correct when it marked down to $45K?



The whole system is totally messed up and needs to be torn down.  

FredFlintstone's picture

Our first born cost $2,000 "out the door" in 1986. Healthcare and higher ed is out of control. Shearing the sheep for sure.