Countries That Spend the Most on Health Care

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5. Luxembourg
> Total expenditure on health per capita: $4,808
> Expenditure as % of GDP: 7.8% (7th least)
> Annual growth of total health expenditure: +8% (6th most)
> Life expectancy: 80.7 years (tied for 12th highest)

Health care expenditure in Luxembourg is $4,808 a year, or 7.8% of national GDP. This is the greatest decrease among OECD countries. Of that, public expenditures account for 84% of the total, the eighth-highest rate among OECD countries. The country’s system faces some difficult challenges in offsetting unhealthy lifestyle choices. For instance, Luxembourg has the highest annual rate of alcohol consumption at 15.5 liters per capita.

4. Netherlands
> Total expenditure on health per capita: $4,914
> Expenditure as % of GDP: 12% (2nd most)
> Annual growth of total health expenditure: +16.4% (the most)
> Life expectancy: 80.6 years (14th highest)

Health care costs in the Netherlands amount to $4,914 per person each year. The Dutch health expenditure is equivalent to 12% of the nation’s GDP — the second greatest relative health expenditure of every nation in the OECD except the U.S. Total expenses jumped by 16.4% between 2008 and 2009, the most among OECD nations. Despite this increase, total out-of-pocket expenses per capita are just $227 per person, the fourth-lowest in the OECD.

3. Switzerland
> Total expenditure on health per capita: $5,344
> Expenditure as % of GDP: 11.6% (5th most)
> Annual growth of total health expenditure: +2.8% (17th most)
> Life expectancy: 82.3 years (2nd highest)

Switzerland currently spends the third most on health care per capita, or the equivalent of 11.6% of the country’s GDP. Switzerland has one of the most privatized health care systems in the world, with 30.9% of expenses coming out of pocket. Because of the wealth of country, this comes to $1,650 per person, more than double every country in the developed world except the U.S.

2. Norway
> Total expenditure on health per capita: $5,352
> Expenditure as % of GDP: 9.6% (16th most)
> Annual growth of total health expenditure: +8.4% (4th most)
> Life expectancy: 81.0 years (10th highest)

After its neighbor, Denmark, Norway has the most nationalized health care system in the developed world. Of the country’s $5,352 expenditures per person, 84.1% are covered by the public sector. Access to health care in the country is high. There are approximately four physicians per 1,000 people, the third most in the OECD. Despite the high percentage of total costs covered by the public, the nation’s residents still pay more than $800 per person on health care.

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1. United States
> Total expenditure on health per capita: $7,960
> Expenditure as % of GDP: 17.4% (the most)
> Annual growth of total health expenditure: +2.2% (14th least)
> Life expectancy: 78.2 years (27th highest)

The U.S. has, by far, the highest total expenditure on health care per capita. America spends approximately $2,600 more per person annually than Norway, the second-highest spender. Only 47.7% of this amount is public expenditure — the third-smallest percentage among developed countries. However, the actual amount of public spending, $3,795, is among the highest. The U.S. also spends the largest amount on pharmaceuticals and other medical nondurables. The country has fairly low rates of doctors and hospital beds relative to its population. It also has the eighth-lowest life expectancy, at 78.2 years.

–Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale

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