The United States has fewer physicians, specialists and hospital beds per 1,000 residents than other developed countries that have much less expensive health care systems.
David Squires, an analyst at the Commonwealth Fund, New York, includes those observations in a paper in which he suggests that high obesity rates might play some role in driving up U.S. health care costs but that the very high cost of U.S. medical services may play an even bigger role.
Squires conducted the analysis using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Paris, and other sources. He compared health care spending, supply, utilization, prices, and quality in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
High spending in the United States “cannot be attributed to higher income, an older population, or greater supply or utilization of hospitals and doctors,” Squires says.
The populations in many other OECD countries are older than the U.S. population, and some have higher per-capita incomes, Squires says.
The United States has just 2.4 practicing physicians per 1,000 residents and just 2.7 acute care hospital beds per 1,000 residents. The median figures for all OECD countries are 3 physicians and 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 residents.
But, even after adjusting for differences in the cost of living, U.S. hospital spending per discharge is about 50% higher than the spending per discharge in the countries with the next biggest hospital spending amounts, Canada and the Netherlands, Squires says.
U.S. hospital spending per discharge is more than twice as high as spending per discharge in Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany.