Special Report

Countries That Spend the Most on Public Health

Has the thought of cost ever prevented you from going to the doctor? The issue of health care costs is not just an individual concern but a national and global one as well. In fact, health care costs are growing faster than the rest of the global economy, according to the World Health Care Organization (WHO).

Every country has its unique political, economic, and social climate affecting its health care policies and spending. 24/7 Tempo reviewed health care expenditure data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 34 predominantly rich countries, because health spending is associated with a nation’s wealth.

A third of OECD countries spend more than $2,000 per person each year on health care. The 12 countries with the highest health care costs, spend about twice that amount. The differences between countries is staggering, ranging from more than $8,000 per person in the country with the most expensive health care system to $541 in the OECD country with the lowest health care expenses per capita.

The countries spending the most on health care today allocate between 3% and 14% of their total gross domestic product (GDP) on health care costs. The average amount spent on health care per person in comparable countries is $3,018. This is less than half the U.S. figure of $8,047 per person per year (and this is what every state spends on health care).

Countries’ health expenditures include paying for general medicine, diagnostic procedures such as MRI scans, hospitalizations and surgeries, as well as medications and prescribed treatment. In the United States, for example, what particularly drives up the cost of health care are drug prices, increase in population size, and aging population.

Click here to see the 18 countries that spend the most on health care.

To identify the countries that spend the most on public health, 24/7 Tempo reviewed health care expenditures data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 34 mostly wealthy nations. Expenditure figures are as for 2017, the latest year for which data is available. The countries that spent more than $3,000 per person on public health in 2017 were selected. Additional information on countries’ health care systems was taken from the respective nation’s government sources and the Commonwealth Fund. The annual amount spent on public health as a share of a country’s GDP and number of doctors per capita also came from the OECD.

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