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Commonwealth Fund Study: U.S. Spends More on Health Care

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

May 3, 2012 -- The United States spends "far more" on health care than a dozen other industrialized countries but provides superior care only for some conditions, according to a new study from The Commonwealth Fund.

U.S. patients who have breast and colorectal cancer tend to have higher survival rates than in many other nations, but those with asthma and diabetes tend to have higher rates of preventable death. Rates for deaths in the hospital due to heart attack or stroke are about average.

The United States spent almost $8,000 per person in 2009 on health care services. Japan and New Zealand spent one-third as much, while Norway and Switzerland spent two-thirds as much. Of the 13 countries studied, Japan had the lowest spending, which the report said is due to stringent price regulation.

Higher spending here is probably due to higher U.S. prices, the study said. A greater use of high-tech care also played a role, according to the report. Americans also have higher obesity rates than some other nations.

The study, which updated previous analyses by the group, used data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other sources to compare health care spending, quality and other factors in 13 industrialized countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The analysis found that the big bucks spent on health care is not due to higher income in the U.S., an older population, or greater supply or use of hospitals and doctors.

Democrats have often cited studies with similar findings to explain why Congress needed to pass the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).

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