Analysts at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., have published data on the shift in a report based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris.

The United States started out in 1970 with per-capita health care expenditures that were 58% higher than the average for a group of 15 wealthy countries that includes Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The gap shrank to 51% in 1980, then soared to 86% in 1990. The gap shrank slightly,Earth to 84%, between 1990 and 2000.

But the gap swelled to 91% in 2008, according to Kaiser figures.

Similarly, the United States started out in 1970 with 7.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) going to health care. That percentage was 37% higher than the average for the 15 wealthy OECD countries that the Kaiser analysts included in their charts.

The gap narrowed to 29% in 1980, increased to 56% in 1990, fell to 49% in 2000, then jumped back up to 58% in 2008.

In 2008, the United States spent $7,538 on health care capita and devoted 16% of its GDP to health care.

The only other countries in the comparison group that spent more than 11% of GDP on health care in 2008 were Belgium and France.

- Allison Bell

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