It's the prices, stupid: why the United States is so different from other countries

Health Aff (Millwood). May-Jun 2003;22(3):89-105. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.22.3.89.


This paper uses the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to compare the health systems of the thirty member countries in 2000. Total health spending--the distribution of public and private health spending in the OECD countries--is presented and discussed. U.S. public spending as a percentage of GDP (5.8 percent) is virtually identical to public spending in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan (5.9 percent each) and not much smaller than in Canada (6.5 percent). The paper also compares pharmaceutical spending, health system capacity, and use of medical services. The data show that the United States spends more on health care than any other country. However, on most measures of health services use, the United States is below the OECD median. These facts suggest that the difference in spending is caused mostly by higher prices for health care goods and services in the United States.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Developed Countries / economics
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / trends
  • Health Services / economics
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Private Sector
  • Public Sector
  • Quality of Health Care
  • United States