How does health spending in the U.S. compare to other countries?

This chart collection takes a look at how spending on healthcare in the United States compares to other OECD countries that are similarly large and wealthy (based on GDP and GDP per capita). The analysis looks at 2017 health data from the OECD Health Statistics database and the National Health Expenditure Accounts.  

Relative to the size of its wealth, the U.S. spends a disproportionate amount on health care

As would be expected, wealthy countries like the U.S., tend to spend more per person on health care and related expenses than lower income countries. However, even as a high income country, the U.S. spends more per person on health than comparable countries. Health spending per person in the U.S. was $10,224 in 2017, which was 28% higher than Switzerland, the next highest per capita spender.

On average, other wealthy countries spend about half as much per person on health than the U.S. spends

Comparing health spending in the U.S. to other countries is complicated, as each country has unique political, economic, and social attributes that contribute to its spending. Because health spending is closely associated with a country’s wealth, the remaining charts compare the U.S. to similar OECD countries – those that have above median national incomes (as measured by GDP) and also have above median income per person. The average amount spent on health per person in comparable countries ($5,280) is roughly half that of the U.S. ($10,224).

Since 1980, the gap has widened between U.S. health spending and that of other countries

Over the past four decades, the difference between health spending as a share of the economy in the U.S. and comparable OECD countries has widened. In 1970 the U.S. spent about 6% of its GDP on health, similar to spending by several comparable countries (the average of comparably wealthy countries was 5% of GDP in 1970). The U.S. was relatively on pace with other countries until the 1980s, when its health spending grew at a significantly faster rate relative to its GDP. In 2017, the U.S. spent 17% of its GDP on health consumption, whereas the next highest comparable country (Switzerland) devoted 12% of its GDP.

U.S. health spending growth was higher during the 1980s, but has been similar since

While the U.S. has long had higher than average spending, growth rates have become more in line with other countries. The 1980s saw accelerated growth in health expenditures per capita in the U.S. The 10.1% average annual growth rate in the U.S. during the 1980s was the highest among comparable countries. The comparably wealthy countries saw an average of 7.0% annual growth during this period. Since the 1990s, health spending has grown similarly in the U.S. and comparable countries

In recent years, health spending growth has slowed in the U.S. and in comparable countries

Health spending growth in both the U.S and comparable countries has slowed in recent years. In the 2005-2010 period, the U.S. saw a 4.3% average annual growth rate compared to 7.2% the previous five year period. Comparable countries also saw a drop to a 4.4% average annual growth rate during the 2010-2016 period, down from 5.3% on average in the 2005-2010 period.

While the U.S. has similar public spending, its private sector spending is triple that of comparable countries

While the U.S. has much higher total spending as a share of its economy, its public expenditures alone are in line with other countries. In 2016, the US spent about 8.5% of its GDP on health out of public funds –essentially equivalent to the average of the other comparable countries. However, private spending in the U.S. is much higher than any comparable country; 8.8% of GDP in the U.S., compared to 2.7% on average for other nations.

The U.S. has increased both public and private sector spending at a faster rate than similar countries

Over the last three decades, the U.S. has seen increased spending by both the public and private sectors. Comparable countries increased private sector spending from 1.4% to 2.7% of GDP from 1970 to 2016, while the U.S. increased private sector spending from 3.9% to 8.8% during the same period. In 2016, the U.S. spent 8.5% of GDP on health through public funds, a rate similar to comparable countries.