The U.S. health care system can be very efficient by world standards when payment systems give patients and providers an incentive to control costs, an international health expert says.
Mark Pearson, head of the social policy division at the Organisation for Co-operation and Development, Pearson, gave that verdict Wednesday at a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on the cost and quality of health care.
Pearson, who gives OECD member countries advice about how to combine income transfer programs with social and welfare services, said at the hearing that the United States has an expensive health care system that does not provide universal coverage.
“But it is notable that where there are payment structures that encourage cost-consciousness, the United States has a very efficient system,” Pearson said, according to a written version of his remarks posted on the Aging Committee website. “There are few physicians and hospital beds, and average length of stay in hospital is low. This is a sign that the structure of the health system determines expenditures “
Other countries tend to have more methods for regulating the quantity or price of health care services, or both, Pearson said.
Some countries work harder to control use of new technologies, and others require patients to spend more on certain types of services out of pocket, Pearson said.
In the United States, Pearson said, patients must pay a relatively high proportion of long term care costs out of pocket.
“No doubt as a result, total spending” on long term care is relatively low in the United States, Pearson said.