Special Report

This Is How Americans' Medical Bills Compare to Other Countries

Samuel Stebbins

The coronavirus pandemic has thrust the shortcomings of America’s health care system into the spotlight once again. The United States has one of the costliest health care systems in the world, and it is home to an estimated 27.5 million people who do not have health insurance. Even for those Americans with coverage, the out-of-pocket cost of treating the virus could exceed $1,300, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

Average out-of-pocket medical expenses can be a telling measure of the efficacy of a health care system. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organization of 36 member states working toward improved global prosperity, higher out-of-pocket costs have been shown to translate to worse health outcomes. Out-of-pocket costs cover everything paid for directly by the individual, including prescription drug and doctor’s visit copays as well as health insurance deductibles and medical goods for personal use. 

Using health spending data from the OECD, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed per capita out-of-pocket health care spending in the 20 most populous OECD member states to determine how Americans’ medical bills compare to other countries. 

High out-of-pocket medical costs can deter someone with a medical problem from seeking treatment. This may partially explain why countries with high average out-of-pocket costs also often have worse outcomes. In the United States, for instance, the country with the highest out-of-pocket spending on this list, average life expectancy at birth is 78.6 years, lower than in the vast majority of countries on this list. Here is a look at the countries where people live the longest

Medical care costs shouldered by patients in the U.S. are representative of the high overall costs across the health care system. When considering all forms of medical spending, including government and private industry, the U.S. spends far more per capita than every other OECD nation. This is due in large part to higher prescription drug and administrative costs. Here is a look at the countries spending the most on public health.

Click here to see how Americans’ medical bills compare to other countries
Click here to read our methodology