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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buckstopshere's picture

A shorter life expectancy makes Social Security look more solvent.

Cooking the books.

junction's picture

The chart shows that Monsanto and the New World Order are succeeding, that more glyphosate herbicide in the food, more toxic chemtrails and more unneccessary operations are having the desired effect, to cull the American population.  Helped immeasurably by the cocaine and heroin flown into the USA by the Bush Crime Cartel on Air Force cargo planes. 

cheka's picture

nyc runs US health care.  that tells one all he needs to know.

balolalo's picture

America - full of fat, lazy, overfed, over-priveledged, drug abusing, pill popping, environment killing, self-destructive, and stupid people

and the oligarchs love it.   including orange jesus trump.

the solution is to privatize more of it.  #maga

hahaha.   suckers.


TBT or not TBT's picture

US life expectancy is worse than for those other countries due to A) counting preemie deaths (which many "advanced" nations dont) and B) blacks.    For the most part.  

Escrava Isaura's picture


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

Is there are a such thing as the US spending less than any other country at any sector of the economy?


TBT or not TBT's picture

As a percentage of GDP, we forcibly spend less than many other nations on many other things.   For example in Zimbawe, Somalia, Egypt, or Venezuela they must be spending a larger % of GDP on food than we do.   In % terms.  

wee-weed up's picture

The level of huge Socialist taxes inflicted on these people all their working lives in these other countries is not worth the few couple of extra years of average life expectancy they may (or may not) gain.

remain calm's picture

Tyler, Really disengeniuos graph. Can you plot the obesity(BMI) graph next to this if you really are interested in being fair and honest.

Kotzbomber747's picture

Most Americans are fat and dumb enough to think that "with just 5 minutes per day" and "4 easy payments of only $49,99" you can just buy your way to the sculpted body of an athlete or model they see in a TV commercial.

Furthermore, they poison themselves with artificial "low fat" and "low sugar" Frankenstein foods, and then they STILL wonder why they are fat and unhealthy! Hahaha!

Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that Trump will improve things and this is the biggest problem I also see here on ZeroHedge.

The first rule of socialism is "to think that the government/a president/a politician/a health care corporation can make a difference." They won't make a difference, people need to inform themselves about health and nutrition!

nmewn's picture

But but but...that well known "socialist" billionaire Oprah lost 40lbs with Weight Watchers!...


...and gained millions on her stawk holdings...lol.

Or was it just her front-running announcement that she lost 40 pounds? Anyone ask her to prove she lost it? What difference at this point does it make?

Sigh ;-)

The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) nmewn Jan 2, 2017 11:20 AM

Part of the problem comes from the drug companies.  Drugs developed in the U.S. are priced at astronomical prices in the U.S. to cover the research, testing and trials costs.  But overseas markets require low prices so rather than lose that market drug companies drastically lower the prices for export.  So, the U.S. medical system ends up footing the bill to develop expensive drugs that the rest of the world uses on the cheap.


Abbie Normal's picture

This is a common misconception.  With the majority of the major pharmaceutical companies being multi-national, most of the research is not done in the USA.  In fact, some drugs currently prescribed in the USA would be considered malpractice if prescribed in other developed countries that abandoned those drugs in some cases, decades ago.


Besides, research costs amount to less than a quarter of what the drug companies spend on advertising.  That is where the real cost of drugs in the USA comes from -- banning advertising would lower the cost of drugs tremendously.

Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

They DO "make a difference", its just NOT a positive one!

logicalman's picture

Eat good food, made from scratch and excercise....

Best healthcare plan you can have.


Debt-Is-Not-Money's picture

"Eat good food, made from scratch and excercise...."
And don't go to a doctor - they'll kill you!

Itinerant's picture

Yes, disingenuous.

  1. You cannot compare costs in dollars -- in Mozambique you buy the same lettuce for 2 cents instead of 2 dollars.
  2. Obviously US health-care outcomes cannot be evaluated without discounting gun violence, criminality, accident rates, war deaths, and general health and life-style.
  3. The strongest correlation between longevity and other factors is not the quality of health-care, but general prosperity (which is not the same as dollar average income: it has to do with how broadly prosperity is distributed and with the quality, not the dollar costs)
  4. Preventive medicine (children, innoculation, hygiene, clean water, general population) is much more effective than remedial health-care (for unhealthy or obese octogenarians).

That said, the point remains: US health care is outrageously priced and will bankrupt the country if nothing is undertaken against price gouging (publicly posted pricing, competitive price listings, same prices for everybody, catastrophic insurance only and out of pocket pricing for normal medical interventions).

Also worth pointing out that a lot of the lines have a sideways skew at the top: There is a strong diminishing rate return of return, probably associated with record numbers of the aged receiving heroic but ineffective intervention towards the end of their lives.

Dog Will Hunt's picture

Standard Republitard default argument: "socialism."  

Pinch's picture

Republitards and Freedumb-lovers need to watch Michael Moore's movie about this called "Sicko"


You need MORE socialism, not less.


cheech_wizard's picture

1. Death is the number one killer in the world.

2. Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

3. Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.

Standard Disclaimer: Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Tech them how to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks, months, maybe even years.


edotabin's picture

Quality of life is also a factor many times. 

nmewn's picture

More socialism not less?

Hidden and unsaid within that inane statement is the brute force of the socialist totalitarian state, where faceless unaccountable bureaucrats busy themselves writing still more regulation,taxation and items to ban in their sole driving ambition to control people.  

And of course, secure their fat pensions & salary. 

Furthermore, pointing to a leftwing fat-ass with a physique like Michael Moore is not evidence of anything except as yet more evidence of liars touting numbers who tell their lies in the opposite, as mortality rates are counted differently from country to country. One country may count a "live birth" as a child who survives birth for days (not seconds) whereas a another country doesn't even count it by any muscle movement criteria at all...meaning, you can't have a "death" when something wasn't even "alive". 

Liars with numbers and socialists are infamous for it.

stljoe's picture

The system here is already well over half socialized taking into account medicare, medicaid, free shit health care under ACA. This suggests we need much less socialism not more. Then again maybe I am wrong and maybe monopolies are good. Look at how awesome our nearly 100% socialized educational system is that spends way more than eveyone else for inferior results. 

Bay Area Guy's picture

Ask Venezuela how that whole socialism thing is going.....as they pay hellacious amounts for food that the army, the group in charge of food distribution, is hording it and selling it on the black market for huge profits.

logicalman's picture

Venezuels, among others, is being fucked over by banks.

Happens to any country that doesn't play ball with US.


roddy6667's picture

Those socialist countries collected and spent LESS for healthcare than America spends, not more. And they got better results.

Why do you want to spend more? Are you a doctor, or do you own a lot of healthcare or pharmaceutical stocks?

HowdyDoody's picture

The US doesn't have a HealthCare industry, it has a ProfitCare industry.

Bob's picture

It would be interesting to plot the individual incomes of the recipients of all that spending for each country as well.  Something tells me the AMA monopoly and laws barring government-run health plans from negotiating prices for drugs might have a great deal to do with the noted difference in costs.  I read here (didn't check it) that 17% of the much-cited top 1% are doctors.

Socratic Dog's picture

Right!  While we, in our low-tax paradise...er...wait a minute.

NoPension's picture

Our money is NOT spent on healthcare.

A huge portion is WASTED on health insurance and management.

A huge SKIM takes place before, during and after actual healthcare is administered.

Insurance and " Healthcare " management companies raking in and valued at multiple $billions is the proof.

Universal INSURANCE is !!!NOT!!! Universal HEALTHCARE!!!

tnquake's picture

Have you ever seen a small "Blue Cross" building?


dweller's picture

You should see what they did to the Independence Blue Cross Building here in Philly. Brand new state of the art lobby, brand new ultra modern glass exterior, with a whole outdoor Live! venue and sitting area, where get this... cooking classes and fitness instruction will be done. Millions of dollars spent on bullshit corporate image and for the 1% to gloat over themselves at lunch time. The people who have seen their premiums skyrocket beyond their control have no utility for such nonsense.

billwilson2's picture

Answer: SINGLE PAYER. It works and is best for business and innovation.

stljoe's picture

yes because medicare is not 50 trillion dollars in the hole and our single payer education system is not the most expensive ineffective boondoggle on the planet. I know if we try just 1 more government monopoly it will work this time.

chiaroscuro's picture

Here's how to cut healthcare costs: cut out insurance companies for all but catastrophic coverage. It works and is best for business and innovation.


Croesus's picture

@ No Pension: 


I'm reposting this comment from another thread, last night: 


This is currently what's happening in my family: 

"If y'all want to hear a personal story on government stupidity in action:

Croesus's Dad is casted-up with a fib-tib break that hasn't healed right. So, Dr. Surgeon tells us his options are: Bone Stimulator machine, or Surgery.

We opt for the machine, and a gorgeous, tall blonde drops it off (she was "Wow", and tells us how to use it:

Goes over the cast, runs for 30 minutes...and CAN ONLY BE USED for 270 sessions. $4000 machine, ours to keep. Most people throw them out after they're done.

The 270 uses bit, is because the FDA only approves it for a max of 9 months, so the makers build it with a finite lifespan.

Fortunately, Croesus has all kinds of dumb knowledge stored upstairs...and I know that if you take it apart, there's a removable backup battery that, once removed, resets the counter. This makes the machine reusable, in spite of vapid political bullshit.

$4,000 machine...90% success rate..."1 use only, please", brought to you by the same imbeciles as always...the same people who brought us the Drug War, the Multi-billion Dollar Bridge to Nowhere, and the War on Terror!"


armageddon addahere's picture

I'm glad your dad got better. The machine, or the original experiments that led to its development are described in a book called "The Body Electric" by Dr Robert O Becker.

Have you analysed the circuits in the machine? I would guess you could duplicate it for less than $40 worth of electronic components and that it would last for years if not built as a deliberate ripoff.

For more astonishing electronic medicine look up Bob Beck's work. There are videos of his on Youtube, and plans for his devices on the net. I have built them and they work.

edotabin's picture

The one thing i could never understand is why there always has to be a link between quality and cost. More money does not equal better. Our healthcare isn't better and neither is our education, despite spending countless billions.

Chief Wonder Bread's picture

Australia, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Italy, U.S.

Which of these countries is not like any of the others? Haha. Multiculturalism is such a fantastic deal. Some "cultures" just don't make good lifestyle decisions such as thinking that grape drank and swisher sweets are healthful choices.

balolalo's picture


only weak white men need to always kick the black man down and blame them and "others" for the problems of his own making.


blaming 11% of the population for the problems made by the majority 70%-80% of whites.

cognitive dissonance.   #maga


For Ages We Shall Reign's picture


Ignore the 6%(million) of Americans that are black malessssshhhh who comit over 50% of all violent crime and assaultssssshhh...

Multiculturalism issssh your friend goy!

*Wrings hands menacingly*


balolalo's picture

of course the tribe would write this nonsense.

philipat's picture

It is, of course, in part a "Lifestyle" issue but the US system is grossly inefficient because there are adverse incentives built in (Adverse selection etc.). The US still uses a "Fee for service" model which has never been able to control costs anywhere in the world. On top of that, high pharmaceutical prices in the US account for up to 90% of total Big Pharma profits ane Medical Malpractise insurance not only directly adds large costs but indirectly forces the use of an unnecessary number of tests and the use of the newest drugs etc. Without any sensible controls at any point in the system it will only continue to get further out of control, as ACA has illustrated.

Ballin D's picture

What's the alternative to "fee for service?"  Seems pretty standard to charge for services rendered.

philipat's picture

Except that more services = more fees = higher costs. Hence multiple tests, multiple procedures and multiple drugs = higher costs and higher fees = inefficiency bias and higher still costs. Physicians are human and the Healthcare providers have become experts at maximising costs to breaking point. There are many alternative models within which to control costs through negotiated standard procedures and fixed costs for each procedure and drug formularies (including the use of generic drugs) etc. Single payer is used by much of the developed world where the supplier agrees to supply at a negotiated price or doesn't get to participate, which focuses their attention nicely. The benefits of scale, in whatever system is used, should result in lower prices but don't in the US where USG is already the largest single provider of healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid etc).

Bendromeda Strain's picture

Does single payer regulate malpractice damage awards?