Special Report

Countries Spending the Most on Health Care

3. Norway
>Health expenditure per capita:
> Expenditure as a pct. of GDP: 8.9%
> Obesity rate: 10.0%
> Life expectancy: 81.8

As in a number of other European nations, health care is universal in Norway. Through an agreement with the European Union (EU), all EU citizens are covered by the system, and undocumented immigrants are permitted free emergency treatment only. Due largely to Norway’s centralized medical system, $4,981 of the $5,862 total per capita annual health spending comes from public sources — the highest public contribution of all OECD nations. The high health care spending in Norway means more health practitioners. There are approximately four doctors and 17 nurses per 1,000 Norwegians, the fourth and second highest concentrations among countries reviewed.

As in other prosperous nations, Norway has a relatively high incidence of cancer at 318 cases per 100,000 people each year. However, this is largely due to the long life expectancy. Norway has one of the longest life expectancies in the world, at 81.8 years. Despite the high incidence, Norwegian cancer patients have relatively high survival rates.

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2. Switzerland
>Health expenditure per capita:
> Expenditure as a pct. of GDP: 11.1%
> Obesity rate: 10.3%
> Life expectancy: 82.9

With universal health care for every citizen, Switzerland spends more on health care per capita than every country except for the United States. Higher spending in Switzerland is accompanied by better health outcomes. The national obesity rate of 10.3% is one of the lowest worldwide. A relatively low obesity rate likely contributes to the Swiss’ perception of their own health. Nearly 81% of Swiss adults report being in good or very good health, a higher share than in all but six of the countries reviewed.

With more than 17 nurses for every 1,000 citizens, no country in the world is home to a larger concentration of practicing nurses than Switzerland. Switzerland also has a relatively high doctor to patient ratio with about four practicing doctors for every 1,000 residents. With a low obesity rate and plenty of health care providers, people in Switzerland can expect to live to be about 83, a higher life expectancy than in all but two of the 43 countries examined by the OECD.

1. United States
>Health expenditure per capita:
> Expenditure as a pct. of GDP: 16.4%
> Obesity rate: 35.3%
> Life expectancy: 78.8

While higher health care spending generally leads to better health outcomes, this is famously not the case in the United States. The country, which is one of the world’s wealthiest, spends by far the most on health care. The United States spends around $8,700 per capita each year on health care, more than double the OECD average and well more than second place Switzerland.

Despite the high spending, Americans are not anywhere near the world’s healthiest. More than 35% of Americans are obese, one of the highest rate in the world, and exceptionally high compared with other countries spending the most on health. The United States is also the only top 10 country for health spending where the life expectancy does not exceed 80 years. Also, perhaps as a consequence of poor economic and social factors as well as the inefficient spending, adverse health outcomes such as infant mortality have increased in the United States. While in 2000, the incidence of infant mortality in the United States was lower than the OECD average, today it is higher.

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