America Spends More on Health Care than Other Countries But Ranks Low on Life Expectancy

The Affordable Care Act provides health care to millions of Americans. Here’s what you need to know to enroll for coverage under the ACA before the December 15 deadline.

by Impact Staff
Dec 12 2017, 6:30pm

Jean-Luc Bonifay

On a scale of low-to-high-income countries, those on the lower end of the scale generally pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses and those on the higher end use government or private insurances. In many low-income countries, people will skip on treatment or preventative care to avoid medical bills that could put them into devastating poverty. However, the U.S. is an oddity in that it’s a high-income country and charges patients with astronomical medical fees that often land people in the poor house.

It’s a given that countries spend different amounts on health care based on their GDP, but the U.S. spends more on health care than other country in the world. According to a 2017 study from medical science journal The Lancet, on average Americans spend $9,237 on health care per person. In comparison, the UK— another high income country— only spends $3,749 per person on health care. Similarly, France, Canada and Japan all spend less than $5,000 for individual health care expenses.

Despite spending the most on health care, Americans don’t have a longer life expectancy than other industrialized nations. In fact, according to a 2015 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit health organization, the U.S. comes in 12th for life expectancy among other developed countries. Also, data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows the U.S. spent $3 trillion on health care, with $1.1 trillion coming from prepaid private insurance and $337.4 billion coming from out-of-pocket finances. Clearly, the influx of money doesn’t equate to better health outcomes for citizens.

The main difference between the U.S. and most wealthy countries with higher life expectancies and lower medical expenses is universal or near universal coverage, meaning the government accepts the majority of the burden in paying for health care. Although the U.S. doesn’t have universal coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) more people have been able to access medical services at a low cost. The policy has been credited with decreasing medical debt and improving overall public health, and particularly helpful to young people, women and Americans with disabilities.

The ACA isn’t perfect, and politicians have advocated for an expansion of coverage for more Americans. Earlier this year, Bernie Sanders introduced a Medicare for All bill in the Senate that could bring the US up to speed with other developed nations. However, given President Trump and the GOP’s aggressive attempts to repeal and replace the ACA, it will take a huge congressional effort to make Medicare for All a reality.

The best way to fight federal attempts to sabotage open enrollment is to find out if you qualify for coverage, and enroll if you do . Then, it's all about getting the word out about open enrollment to your friends and family. Get America Covered makes this easy , with shareable social graphics, easy to understand fact sheets, and an email list serve.

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