Policy-ish

America: Land Of Good Cancer Care And Big Health Spending

In case you need a reminder that the U.S. spends way more on health care than thriftier countries and doesn't have much to show for it, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is here to help.

Health spending as percentage of GDP shows the U.S. is the biggest spender. i i

That's the U.S. on the far right. OECD hide caption

itoggle caption OECD
Health spending as percentage of GDP shows the U.S. is the biggest spender.

That's the U.S. on the far right.

OECD

A fresh report from the OECD hits us for spending 16 percent of our gross domestic product on health care in 2007, compared with an average of 8.9 percent in other developed countries. Far behind us, the other big spenders are France (11 percent of GDP), Switzerland (10.8 percent) and Germany (10.4 percent). Ouch.

What do we do right? Well, the OECD give America props for cancer care. Our attention to screening and state-of-the-art treatment shows. Five-year survival rates for colorectal cancer are 65 percent for American women (7 percentage points higher than the OECD average) and 66 percent for American males (10 percentage points higher). For more on U.S. gains against colorectal cancer, see this post.

Where do we go wrong? Primary care, no surprise. Preventable hospital admissions for asthma and diabetes are twice what they are, on average, in the OECD, the report says.

Mark Pearson, the head of OECD's health unit, explained the American problem in an interview with American Public Radio's Marketplace. "Well, if you spend a lot, it's either because your prices are higher or you're doing more, or a bit of both," he said. " And in fact seeing the United States' case, it's a bit of both."

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