The health of people in the United States is plagued by conundrums.
We spend more on healthcare than any other developed nation, yet we lead far shorter lives. A baby born on American soil is the most expensive in the world, yet our newborns have a lower chance of surviving past infancy than those born in eight other developed nations. The Affordable Care Act has made health insurance more accessible to the poor, yet bills for medications and basic hospital procedures remain strikingly high.
Here are 11 charts that show in embarrassing detail some of the many shortcomings of our healthcare system.
1. Americans don’t live as long as we should.
In terms of overall life expectancy, the United States ranks 26th out of 34 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries. Americans enjoy fewer years than Slovenians and Koreans, living just a tad longer than Czechs and Chileans, who used to rank far behind us.
2. But our country spends far more on healthcare and drugs than any other developed country.
Nearly a fifth of America’s gross domestic product goes toward healthcare spending, putting us above the Netherlands, France, Germany, Canada and Switzerland, where actual health outcomes are much better.
3. Many of us die from diseases that don’t have to be fatal.
Americans are more likely to die from asthma than people than in Brazil or Costa Rica, even though the disease is equally prevalent in those countries.
4. Americans with certain treatable diseases are more likely to end up in a hospital — and more likely to die.
We send more adult asthma sufferers to the hospital to be treated than any other developed country, coming in just under the Slovakian Republic. The soaring cost of asthma medication in the US (a Qvar brand inhaler, for example, costs 18 times more in the US than it does in Greece) is partially to blame for this problem, but access to preventative care also plays a role. Uninsured asthma patients are far more likely to die in the hospital than those with insurance.
5. Our life expectancy varies by skin colour.
In 2009, the average black American could expect to live to just 75, the same life expectancy white Americans enjoyed 30 years earlier in 1979. Today, Black Americans remain far more likely than white Americans to die from heart disease, cancer and diabetes, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
6. It’s too easy to opt out of vaccinations, leading to new cases of preventable diseases.
Low vaccination rates can lead to outbreaks of diseases like measles and Hepatitis B, especially among susceptible populations such as the young and the elderly. A handful of wealthy southern California schools have lower vaccination rates than South Sudan — a troubling trend that extends to New York City private schools as well.
7. American doctors spend very little time with patients.
In comparison to physicians in the Czech Republic, New Zealand, France and Israel, doctors in the US spend far less time consulting with patients and do a far worse job explaining to them what’s wrong.
8. Life-saving prescription drugs cost a fortune.
The US spends a huge chunk of its budget on pharmaceutical drugs. Unlike other countries, whose governments regularly haggle with pharmaceutical companies to reduce drug prices, Medicare is forbidden from engaging in such negotiations. This is why a cancer drug like Gleevec, which costs about $US1,000 in New Zealand and Canada, costs an average of $US6,214 in the US. Even the common pain medication Celebrex, which runs for $US51 in Canada, can cost anywhere from two to nine times that amount in the US.
9. Standard lab tests are far pricier, too.
An MRI in the US, for example, can cost 10 times as much as it would in Switzerland.
10. American babies are the most expensive in the world.
Giving birth in the US — including hospitalization and a normal delivery — costs an average of $US10,002, nearly five times more than the cost of birth in Argentina or Spain.
11. Yet babies born in the US are far less likely to survive past infancy than babies born in many other developed countries.
In 2004, the latest year that data are available for all countries, the US ranked 29th globally in infant mortality, with the same rate of infant death as Slovakia and Poland.
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