Health Care Reform Trivia Part I: U.S. Health Care Compared to the Rest of the World

Hi Readers – I’ve been doing some research for an upcoming post about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on people with chronic illnesses. Along the way, I’ve come across bits of information I found interesting that I thought I’d share. Here’s part I in a series of health care trivia…stay tuned for Parts II and III – Rachel


Average life expectancy in the U.S. in 2010: 78.2
In 34 OECD* countries: 79.5


US rank among OECD countries in life expectancy: 27th**
Rank among developed OECD countries: last


US rank in the world on infant mortality: 30th


Amount the US spent per capita on health care in the U.S. in 2012: $8,233
The number of times this cost exceeds what most developed countries spend: 2 ½ times


For every $1.00 Americans pay for common prescriptions, the Brits pay $.51 and the French pay $.44


Average cost of MRI in the U.S in 2011: $1,080
In Germany: $599
In France: $281


Average cost of a hospital stay in the US: $18,000
In Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands: $12,000- $14,000
In OECD nations as a whole: $6,200


Average cost of an appendectomy in the US in 2007:  $8,000
In Sweden:  $5,000
In Germany:  $3,000


Number of physicians per 1,000 people in US: 2.4
In the OECD: 3.1
Rank of US in number of physicians per capita: 26 out of 34


What the US does well:
US rank of Breast Cancer survival after 5 years compared with OECD countries: 1
Rank of Colorectal Cancer survival after 5 years: 2 (after Japan)
U.S. rank in shortest time for new drugs to hit the market: 1 (1.3 years)
US rank in number of clinical trials worldwide: 1 (119,469 clinical trials)

* OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) consists of developed countries and a few countries with emerging economies including Chile, Mexico, and Turkey.

** Countries with lower life expectancy than the US: Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Mexico, and Turkey


Center for Disease Control
The Commonwealth Fund
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

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3 Responses to Health Care Reform Trivia Part I: U.S. Health Care Compared to the Rest of the World

  1. Jill says:

    What a great collection of facts! Paints an interesting picture, doesn’t it?!

  2. Papilio says:

    Re: most clinical trials and fastest new drugs: of course it has benefits to have a 300 mln population 🙂

    I hope you realize that comparing bare numbers and percentages among different countries (with different cultures, different laws, different policies, different habits, different ways of counting things, etc etc) can be tricky, so I hope your sources provide enough footnotes to explain such things.
    For instance, I’ve read that infant mortality rate in the US includes more premature children than the EU, where such deaths are more often considered stillborn (I forgot the details about how many weeks of pregnancy etc). You might want to check that…
    And – I can’t help it – a stay in a Dutch hospital may be expensive, but I read just today in the paper about how hard hospitals and other ‘care organizations’ work to shorten the time patients need to stay in the hospital (while still providing them the care they need, of course!).

  3. Young CC Prof says:

    I agree with Papillo’s point. You can’t compare US infant mortality rates to other countries, because the US includes more babies in their counts, more who are premature or hopelessly sick and live only a few hours.

    However, the cancer numbers are also flawed. The US health care system loves cancer screenings, we love them to pieces, even when they aren’t always helpful. This means cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage. Which is good, however, it makes it impossible to compare 5-year survival rates. Search “lead time bias” and cancer for a good explanation of why.