The United States by far spends the most on its health care system compared to the rest of the world. Seventeen percent of the nation’s economy is devoted to health care—50 percent higher than the country with the second-highest proportion of health expenditures (the Netherlands) and nearly double what many other high-income countries spend on health.
Despite having the highest levels spending, Americans’ health outcomes are often worse in comparison with outcomes in other advanced nations. Moreover, there is ample evidence of waste and inefficiency throughout the U.S. health system. Evidence also shows that U.S. prices are out of line with what others pay for the same medical services, devices, and pharmaceuticals—even those produced in the U.S. and sold on global markets.
This level of spending is putting a strain on businesses, governments, and household budgets. It can lead to unfunded liabilities and debt, while at the same time diverting resources away from investments in jobs, education, and other social and economic needs.
The Commonwealth Fund’s Controlling Health Costs initiative monitors and analyzes spending in both the public and private health care sectors. It seeks answers to two central questions:
Patients with high needs and high costs—such as those with multiple chronic conditions or serious mental health problems—are a particular focus of the initiative. Other research examines the cost impact of new medical technologies and changing demographics, as well as the roles played by prices, market structure, treatment patterns, and resource use.
Program contact: Shawn Bishop, Vice President