This is from the link I posted earlier. http://opencrs.com/rpts/RL34175_20070917.pdf
Summary of Findings
Total Spending. In 2004, the United States spent more than twice as much
on health care as the average OECD country, at $6,102 per person (compared with
the OECD average of $2,560). Health care spending comprised 15.3% of the U.S.
GDP in 2004, compared with an average of 8.9% for the average OECD country
(Figure 1). Although a country’s health expenditures are highly correlated with GDP
(Figure 2), U.S. health spending is nevertheless 60% greater than its GDP alone
Health Care Resources. The United States has fewer hospital admissions
(Figure 3) and doctor visits (Figure 4) than the average OECD country. The United
States has a below-average number of hospital beds (Figure 22) and practicing
physicians per population (Figure 15), but its number of nurses per population is
roughly the same as the OECD average. The United States has a higher than average
number of staff per hospital bed (Figure 10) and nurses per bed (Figure 11). The
length of hospital stays in the United States are the same as the OECD average
The United States spent a per capita average of $2,668 on outpatient care in
2004 — three-and-a-half times the OECD average. In most OECD countries, visits
to general practitioners outnumber visits to specialists — but not in the United States.
The United States has a greater supply of advanced technological equipment than
other OECD countries, with nearly twice as many CT scanners per capita as the
OECD average (Figure 12) and three times as many MRI machines (Figure 13).
The United States also performs far more heart procedures per population than the
average OECD country (Figure 9), and an above-average amount of organ
transplants per capita, but does not perform more of all types of surgical procedures.
Pharmaceuticals. The United States spends more on prescription drugs per
capita than any other OECD country (Figure 18). The United States also consumes
more prescription drugs than most OECD countries, according to a nine-country
study (Figure 17). That study found that the United States paid more for brand name
drugs but less for generic drugs than other OECD countries (Figure 16).
102 Association of American Medical Colleges, “2006 Medical School Graduation
Questionnaire: All Schools Report, FINAL,” p. 49, available at [http://www.aamc.org/
Health Administration and Insurance. Spending on health administration
and insurance cost $465 per person in the United States in 2004, which was seven
times that of the OECD median (Figure 20). Americans pay less out-of-pocket for
health care (as a percentage of total health care spending) than residents of most
OECD countries (Figure 21).
Prices. Although OECD data does not compare prices of medical care, other
studies have found that the United States pays higher prices for medical care than
countries such as Canada and Germany. Part of the reason for this may be that U.S.
general practitioners and nurses are the highest paid in the OECD, and U.S.
specialists are the third-highest paid in the OECD (Table 2). Health professionals
in wealthier countries earn higher salaries than those in poorer countries (Figure 14),
but even accounting for this, U.S. health professionals are paid significantly more
than the U.S. GDP would predict (for example, specialists are paid approximately
$50,000 more than would be expected). However, U.S. health care professionals also
enter the careers with substantially more educational debt than in other OECD
countries. For example, in 2006, 62% of new U.S. medical school graduates had
educational debt exceeding $100,000.102
Population Risk Factors. The United States had a lower than average
proportion of the population that is elderly in 2004, and lower than average rates of
smoking and drinking. The United States consumes more calories and sugar per
capita than any other OECD country: the United States consumes 156 pounds of
sugar per person per year, compared with 99 pounds in the average OECD country.
In 2004, 34% of Americans were overweight and an additional 32% were obese.
Obesity is associated with a 77% increase in consumption of medications and a 36%
increase in inpatient and outpatient spending, according to one study.
Quality. In terms of quality of health care, a five-country study found that each
of the five countries studied (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom,
Australia, and New Zealand) had the best and worst health outcomes on at least one
measure, but no country emerged as a clear quality leader. For example, the United
States had the highest breast cancer survival rate but the lowest kidney transplant
survival rate. A six-country study (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom,
Australia, New Zealand, and Germany) found that Americans were most likely to
report receiving specific recommended preventive services for diabetic and
hypertensive patients, but were most likely to complain that their doctor did not
spend enough time with them and did not have a chance to answer all of their
Wait Times. The United States is one of eight countries in which wait times
for elective surgery are reported to be low. In a recent survey, a quarter to a third of
respondents in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia reported waiting more
than four months for a non-emergency procedure, compared with only 5% of
Americans. In terms of doctor visits to primary care physicians, a five-country
survey found that Americans had the greatest difficulty getting care on nights and
weekends and were the most likely to forgo care because of cost.
Health Outcomes. The United States has the third-highest percentage of the
population that reports their health status as being “good,” “very good,” or
“excellent” (Figure 23). However, the United States has below-average life
expectancy (Figure 24) and mortality rates (Table 5). The United States has the
third-highest rate of deaths from medical errors (Figure 25) and the highest infant
mortality rate among the eight countries that report this metric similarly (Figure 26).
However, such measures are often subjective or limited by differing measurement
methodologies. They may also reflect fundamental population differences (in
underlying health, for example) rather than differences in countries’ health care
systems. These are just some of the difficult research issues facing international
comparisons like those used in this report.