HC Statistics International Health Care Systems

Healthcare spending by age: An international comparison

We all know that health care spending per person in the US is highest among all countries. But are these results consistent across age groups? That is the question posed by Papanicolas et al. (2020). Using 2015 OECD data from the US and 7 other high-income countries (i.e., Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), the authors find the following:

In the US, per capita health care spending was $9524, or 1.9-fold higher than the mean for the 7 comparator countries….The absolute difference between US spending and that of the other countries for ages 0 to 4 years was $3899, and that difference decreased at approximately age 5 years, after which it slowly increased. The difference increased faster after age 65 years, peaking at $18 645 for ages 80 to 84 years.

Papanicolas et al. (2020)

In short, health care spending in the US is higher across basically all ages.


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