The share of national income consumed by health care expenditures has been growing faster in many developed European and Asian countries than it has been growing in the United States.
Researchers at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., have published figures supporting that conclusion in a report on health care spending in the United States and other states belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.
The Kaiser researchers emphasize that health care swallows a far larger share of gross domestic product in the United States than in other wealthy countries.
The United States spent 15.2% of GDP on health care in 2003, while the second-ranked country, Switzerland, spent only 11.5% of its GDP on health care, the Kaiser researchers write.
Most of the 16 other countries included in the report spent 8% to 10% of GDP on health care in 2003.
The Kaiser researchers also include health care spending share GDP figures for 1980 and 1990.
From 1980 to 1990, the United States suffered much more rapid growth in the share of GDP devoured by health care spending than any of the other countries listed.
In the United States, the amount of GDP going to health care increased by 35% between 1980 and 1990, to 11.9%.
In Canada, the listed country with the second most rapid expanding health care spending burden between 1980 and 1990, the share of GDP going to health care increased 27%, to 9%, and 5 countries reported the share of GDP going to health care was falling.
From 1990 to 2003, the share of GDP going to health care increased 28% in the United States, to 15.2%.
During that period, the United States ranked 10th on the Kaiser OECD country study list in terms of health care spending expansion.
In Switzerland, the country that topped the study list for the 1990-2003 period, the share of GDP going to health care increased 39%.
Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway and the United Kingdom also saw the share of their GDP going to health care spending increasing faster than 28% between 1990 and 2003, according to Kaiser figures.
The United States ranked eighth in terms of annual average growth in health care expenditures from 1990 to 2003.
During the 1990-2003 period, per capita health care expenditures grew about 3.6% per year in the United States.
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg Norway and the United Kingdom also reported faster per capita spending growth during the period.
Kaiser researchers note that most of the countries in the study other than the United States changed their methods for measuring health care expenditures during the period, and that that might affect comparability over time.