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The United States spends more on healthcare than other wealthy countries – yet its people are still fatter and die younger, according to a damning report.
The Commonwealth Fund, a non-partisan New York City think-tank, compared the US to a dozen developed nations – each of which has universal healthcare.
Just under 18 percent of America’s GDP goes into healthcare, with Germany’s 13 percent being the next closest. This is largely made up of health insurance premiums and other fees related to care.
Despite this, the US life expectancy of 77 years falls well below the UK, which has the second worst at 80.4. America also has an obesity rate of over 40 percent – the most of any nation in the study – and records 336 preventable deaths per every 100,000 residents.
The US life expectancy has significantly dropped since the start of the Covid pandemic, which has been blamed on a mixture of low vaccination rates and the fentanyl epidemic.
The US life expectancy dropped significantly from 2019 to 2020, falling 1.8 years to 77 on average. But, even before the Covid pandemic, Americans were living around three years less than many of their peers
The US far outspends other nations when it comes to healthcare costs, spending around one-fifth of its overall GDP on health care costs
‘While the United States spends more on health care than any other high-income country, the nation often performs worse on measures of health and health care,’ researchers wrote.
‘The findings of our international comparison demonstrate the importance of a health care system that supports chronic disease prevention and management, the early diagnosis and treatment of medical problems, affordable access to health care coverage, and cost containment — among the key functions of a high-performing system,’ they concluded.
‘Other countries have found ways to do these things well; the U.S. can as well.’
The annual U.S. Health Care from a Global Perspective covers data from 1980 to 2021 – up to the second year of the Covid pandemic.
It includes the US and 12 other developed nations with similar values and economic strength.
The life expectancy of the average America is only 77 years in 2020 – well below those of comparable nations.
The next shortest life expectancy among the group is 80.4 in the UK – nearly three-and-a-half years longer than Americans.
Japan’s life expectancy of 84.7 years is the longest. Every country, sans the US, has a life expectancy of 80 years or more.
While Covid caused the life expectancy of many countries to drop, it fell further in America than in peer nations.
The US life expectancy was at 78.8 years in 2019 – still well below peers. However, nearly two years were lost during the first year of the pandemic.
None of the other 12 nations included in the study suffered this type of steep fall.
The drop in life expectancy is directly tied to the number of avoidable deaths in America – which surged in 2020.
The Commonwealth Fund classifies an avoidable death as anything that is preventable or treatable.
This includes deaths from weight-related conditions – which could be stopped with proper diet and nutrition – or from cancer that was diagnosed too late because a person missed routine screenings.
In 2020, 336 preventable deaths occurred in America per every 100,000 residents. This was a massive increase from 273 a year earlier.
No other country suffers a preventable death burden anywhere near that of the US, with Germany being the next highest at 195 deaths.
Experts have warned that disruptions to healthcare caused by the Covid pandemic – causing people to miss routine screenings and other medical appointments – led to a surge in preventable deaths.
Some have even blamed lockdowns – and its associated costs – for the surge in drug overdose deaths that struck America over the past three years.
More than 100,000 Americans died of an overdose – a majority caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl – in 2021, according to official figures.
Despite the high spending on health care, the US suffers more preventable deaths than other countries by a large margin. The report found that America suffered 336 preventable deaths per 100,000 residents – far more than any other country included in the report
More than 40 percent of Americans are obese, far more than any other peer nation. This puts them at an increased risk of a multitude of health conditions
Despite the large amount of money spent on medical care in America, the research found Americans are more likely to suffer from multiple chronic diseases than their peers. More than 30 percent of the population suffers from more than one disease.
But, America’s excess death burden was excessively high even before the virus struck at the turn of the decade.
This is because of the burden the nation already faces because of high rates of obesity and chronic disease.
More than 40 percent of Americans are obese, according to official data – far past the two closest nations in New Zealand (34 percent of the population is obese) and Australia (30.4 percent).
Americans also suffer from chronic conditions at higher rates than peer nations, with more than 30 percent suffering from at least two.
The poor health of the average American could be tied to overall lower healthcare utilization.
The average American only visits a doctor four times each year, the fourth lowest of any country included in the study.
This falls well below the 14.7 visits per year by South Koreans.
Americans spend the most on healthcare, but see the doctor only four times per year – much less often than some comparable peer nations
‘Not only is the U.S. the only country we studied that does not have universal health coverage, but its health system can seem designed to discourage people from using services,’ researchers explained.
One of the most damning statistics for America is its poor record of infant and maternal mortality.
Often considered to be a measure of a nation’s overall development, America has a famously poor record when it comes to childbirth.
The US suffers 5.4 infant deaths per every 1,000 births each year – the most of any of the 13 countries in the study by a large margin.
It also experienced 23.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 births – a staggeringly high figure of ten more than any comparable countries.
The US suffers shockingly high infant and maternal mortality rates when compared to peers
While the 12 other countries in the study guaranteed healthcare to 100 percent of the population, only 38 percent of Americans receive publicly funded treatment
America is a rarity as a developed nation that does not have a universal healthcare system.
While this means the population suffers less of a tax burden, many pay health premiums, deductibles, copays and other fees for their care that may be smaller in public systems.
Much of the population also has employed sponsored insurance, where they receive healthcare that is paid through their job.
America’s high spending on healthcare does not provide any guarantees, though, with the Commonwealth fund noting that only 38 percent of Americans receive care through the government.
Uninsured Americans, around 10 percent of the population, also face exorbitant costs when seeking out medical care in case of emergencies.
Combined, these costs make up around one-fifth of America’s overall GDP, with 18 percent going to healthcare.
In the UK, only 12 percent of the nation’s GDP is spent on healthcare costs. No other country included in the study spent more than 13 percent in 2021.
Government-sponsored care is guaranteed to all residents in each of the other 12 nations.