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Expensive Healthcare Doesn’t Make Us Healthier

“The $2.6 trillion the United States is spending on health care is too much, and we can reduce it without rationing or sacrificing quality,” says Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D.

What’s the Latest Development?

The United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized country, a lot more. But this spending doesn’t translate into longer life expectancy, less disability or better quality of life, says Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D. and bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health. The $2.6 trillion spent annually on healthcare in the U.S. is roughly equal to the G.D.P of France. And while the population of the U.S. is about a quarter of China’s, our spending on healthcare is equivalent to about half of its G.D.P.

What’s the Big Idea?

Critics argue that higher U.S. healthcare spending is offset by higher prescription drug prices and higher salaries for doctors, but even adjusting for these, the U.S. spends 15 percent more than the next-highest spending country, Norway, and a quarter more than systems in France and Germany. While the quality of some American institutions is very high, such as academic research centers, that quality is uneven. “The truth is, the United States is not getting 20 or 30 percent better health care or results than other countries,” says Dr. Emanuel.


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