Special Report

Countries Spending the Most on Health Care

3. Switzerland
> Health expenditure per capita: $6,080
> Expenditure as a pct. of GDP: 11.4% (4th highest)
> Pct. obese: 10.3% (3rd lowest)
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years (3rd highest)

Unlike many countries in the OECD, health care expenditures in Switzerland were not significantly affected by the economic crisis. This was likely due to a high proportion of health expenditures coming from private sources — 34% — which tend to remain relatively stable during economic downturns. Government spending accounted for just 34% of GDP last year, the second lowest among OECD nations. The strength of the Swiss economy likely contributed to the Swiss having the highest life satisfaction score among OECD countries.

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2. Norway
> Health expenditure per capita: $6,140
> Expenditure as a pct. of GDP: 9.3% (16th highest)
> Pct. obese: 10.0% (2nd lowest)
> Life expectancy: 81.5 years (10th highest)

While only one country spent more on health on a per capita basis, Norway’s health care spending as a percent of GDP was in line with the OECD average of around 9.3%. This was likely due to Norway’s exceptionally high GDP of nearly $55,000 per capita last year, the second highest among OECD nations. Perhaps due to the country’s well-funded health care system, residents were relatively healthy. Norwegians 15-years or older drank considerably less than their fellow residents in other OECD nations, consuming just 6.2 liters per capita. And just 10.0% reported they were obese in 2012, also among the lowest in the OECD. Norwegians were also among the world’s happiest, rating their lives 7.7 on a scale of one to 10 on average, second only to the Switzerland.

1. United States
> Health expenditure per capita: $8,745
> Expenditure as a pct. of GDP: 16.9% (the highest)
> Pct. obese: 28.6% (the highest)
> Life expectancy: 78.7 years (8th lowest)

The U.S. spent $8,745 per person on health care in 2012, roughly $2,500 more than Norway, the second highest spender per capita. On average, OECD countries spent $3,484 per capita on health care. The U.S. also dedicated 17% of its GDP to health care, the highest in the OECD. Like the rest of the developed world, U.S. health spending has risen in recent years. Between 2000 and 2012, health expenditures grew at an annualized rate of 3.9%, largely driven by public sector health expenditure, which grew at an annualized rate of 4.8% over the same period. While most OECD country health systems were funded disproportionately by public sources, health care spending in the U.S. was divided evenly between public and private entities. Despite spending the most, the U.S. had one of the lower life expectancies among OECD countries. And while Americans believed they were healthy — 90% reported that they were in “good” health — 28.6% of respondents reported they were obese, the highest rate in the OECD.