Health Care Spending in Developed Countries

July 30th, 2009


America’s ongoing debate over the merits of implementing public health care inspired us to take a look at how the US currently compares to socialized health systems around the world. We analyzed the correlation between the percentage of health care spending covered by the government and the World Health Organization’s ranking of the system, as well as the amount each country spends on health care as a percentage of their GDP. Truly a feast for your eyes, ears, nose and throat.

(Click to enlarge)

  • John Davis

    No way dude, you gotta be kidding me!


  • FD

    Wow, I can’t believe Greece spends the same amount as we do and their healthcare is better. Switzerland spends almost nothing and they’re way better too.

    Our “15% of GPD” is a horrific indication at how costly our doctors and hospitals make it to be. They’re not totally at fault, they have to survive with constant insurance rejections.

    Please someone fix the system in the US!

  • you

    you have to think how much personal responsibility, infrastructure (distance between towns, etc) and culture plays into this. you cant straight shot correlate government spending and health.

    and many of those countries besides the united states are experiencing depression, far before our bubble burst.

    that being said, united states is in dire need of reform.

  • Aaron Cruikshank

    Isn’t a big part of the reason why some of the top WHO countries are so high is because of lifestyle, not because of their public health system? I’ve read that the reason French people are so healthy is because they’ve got urban density down to a fine art and people walk everywhere because driving is unnecessary. That and they live a lower stress life and drink red wine.

  • Alex

    Why is the picture of Canada missing the top half of the country?

  • Greece

    Do you ever been in a hospital in Greece? Do you ever needed to bring drugs from “home” (the near pharmacy) while in a “government” hospital or pay everybody in cash to take care of you? You don’t need government to run medicine, it would slowly kill you. You may want better rules and options, no somebody to choose for you.

  • J

    It’s percentage, the US spends more in total (per person) then anyone, so putting it as a percentage of GDP so people think “wow they spend as much as we do” is a bit deceptive in my opinion, you in fact spend a lot more.

  • jim stallings

    Ignore the blatant lies. 1st, the WHO rankings are strongly affected by “fairness of the payment system” and “infant mortality”. Fairness of payment doesn’t measure actual health care, and “infant mortality” is as reported by the country. Most of the listed countries don’t count all live births against infant mortality.

    Here’s the kicker. Nobody is mentioning that a lot of the testing is done to protect against lawsuits. Right now, the media is blaming moneygrubbing doctors. However, nobody, nobody at all is mentioning any sort of liability reform, at all. The only people, at all, who are going to win from Obama’s plan are lawyers, politicians and beauracrats. Lawyers get more money because the government has deep pocekts. Politicians buy votes on the back of the lower class they claim to “represent” and the beauracrats get job security knowing that there are more jobs, and the new hires have less seniority then them. If you’re not one of those three, you loose strongly

  • Tek KNight

    that doesn’t really explain greece then. The lifestyle there would not help them make #14

  • Jim

    You must also consider that the world looks to the United States for technological advances in health care. We invest billions of dollars to innovate, and the rest of the world benefits from our innovations.

    Additionally, approximately 35 million people are here in the US illegally, yet receive “free” healthcare. And in fact they probably make up more than 10% of our overall healthcare spending since they tend to wait until their health deteriorates to the point that they need to go to the emergency room, which is much more expensive than having regular checkups and preventative “maintenance”. I’d venture to guess that most of the other countries on this list do not have this problem.

    Real health care reform should include the following:
    1. Secure our borders, deport illegals
    2. Deduct healthcare expenses for illegal immigrants from the billions in aid that we give to their home countries
    3. Institute mandatory enrollment in a basic (privatized) health care insurance plan for all Americans
    4. Mandate all insurers to be non-profit organizations
    5. Get the US government out of the healthcare business (end Medicare, etc) because these programs are so wasteful, and care for these people with private programs instead.
    6. Tort-reform. Establish a penalty (financial/jail time) for people who file frivolous lawsuits. This should apply to all forms of lawsuits, not just malpractice suits.

  • Alec

    Lifestyle might account for longevity, but not for infant mortality. We have one of the worst infant mortality rates of the modern world. That speaks directly to pre-natal and health care access to the least among us in our society. You cannot blame infant mortality on too many big macs and not enough walking.

  • person

    This shows that a county can have a large amount of government involvement ie France, or a minimal amoumnt ie Switzerland and still do better than America. Very sad.

  • Luke

    The problem with looking at things from such a grand scale is that it nearly guarantees that you are confusing correlation with causation.

  • ken

    the only truly sad thing is no matter what in the next 10 years or more I would not be surprised if 15% of GDP rises higher though. The USA will never be able to fix the health care problem. Politicans and only to happy to sleep with healthcare insures they couldn’t care less about the average american

  • John Keels

    This demonstrates why the US system is broken. It is time to fix it people! Stop listening to the insurance companies and get on board! Anyway, I support the prospect of having a public health insurance option as an alternative to private insurance. It would change the whole medical industry in this country.

  • Shane

    Isn’t a big part of the reason why some of the top WHO countries are so high is because of lifestyle, not because of their public health system?

    Short answer, no.

    What you are talking about is life expectancy. Life expectancy only plays a small part of the total rating score. Other aspects of the rating system includes;

    -Doctor to population ratio
    -Infant mortality rate
    -Gap between rich and poor medical access
    -Preventable death rate
    -Wait times for elective surgery

    There are also some other things.

  • donna

    I wonder if its the fact that none of Europe allows or uses any of our Genetically Modified Foods nor any of the Growth Hormone milk and dairy products?

  • naw

    FD, please learn how to read this image. I assume that you live in the USA, then Greece spends way less than you guys do. And so does every other country in the world.

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  • Fox

    Did anyone care to think that we spend more money because we have 300 million people? If you combined every country on that list, you might get around that many persons, and probably would spend significantly more than the American people.
    Reform can be accomplished without a retooling of the healthcare system; simply abolishing ridiculous malpractice settlements will provide doctors freedom from high insurance rates, thereby passing the savings onto us, and they will be willing to see more patients, because there is a lesser chance they will be sued.

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  • Tyler

    I would note that geographically Canada has many similar problems to the USA, and similar lifestyle problems.

  • Talia

    All of the above is so true… It has a lot to do with culture, personal responsibility, and lifestyles. We need to nurture a culture in the US where everyone understands that they not only have a personal responsibility to live a healthy lifestyle, but also to take care of each other. We can’t keep running a county where profit motivates health care and we only look out for ourselves. And stuffing your face with cheeseburgers and fries 3 times a week not only kills you, but it makes the system more expensive for everyone.

  • Mimi

    Basic rule of statistics – correlation does not indicate causation. These numbers really don’t give any information about why these numbers are the way they are, although you can certainly try to make it seem that way. You can’t compare health care costs between countries anymore than you can compare mortality rates. There are many more factors that explain these numbers than simply the style of health care system.

  • Jose R

    The amounts should be in dollars; since the US GDP is higher than most countries in the list (probably with the exception of Switzerland), we actually spend much more.

  • WBH

    Cnsider is the validity of the WHO ranking as suspect. One example, a premature baby born in the US may require say $200,000 in care to save his life. He will ge the care in the US regardless of the parent’s insurance status. IF a premature child dies in the US the death is counted as an infant mortality. In many socalilzed countries 1) the baby does not qualify for care, is FORCED out of the system – no care at all, and simply will not survive 2) WHEN that child dies it is counted as an ABORTION and does not impact the all important measure of health care “infant mortality”…

  • Haha

    It is funny how some people are just plain stupid and don’t even realize it.

  • Marchelle Amara

    At times it will require somebody to place the data before you before you recognize that every person need to receive far more treatment.

  • Peggie Parkhouse

    I really like the fresh perpective you did on the issue. Really was not expecting that when I started off studying. Your concepts were easy to understand that I wondered why I never looked at it before. Glad to know that there’s an individual out there that definitely understands what he’s discussing. Great job!

  • sizzix big shot

    I normally bounce all over the ‘net because I have the tendancy to read often (which isn’t always a great idea because the majority of blogs just copy from each other) but I have to say that yours contains some genuine substance! Thanks for stopping the trend of just being another copycat site! ;-)

  • Haha also


    US has a much higher rate of premature birth than the rest of the first world, which is what this comparison is, not third world and developing nations, which also have high levels of premature births.

    The high level of premature births is actually an after-effect of many other problems which we have … some of which are due to our high level of social inequality (urban poverty, babies having babies). Also, our life expectancy is worse than Europe *even accounting for social class*. This is “lifestyle” but not “personal responsibility” but rather the stress of living in an unequal society. For example, working long hours leads to sleep deprivation which leads to cancers. Whereas in Europe the 35 hour work week is standard. And so on.

    What’s often forgotten is that at the beginning of the 20th century, the US was a developing nation (charitably) and became a developed nation by the mid 20th. Its strength at the period was relative to almost all of the great powers of the 19th century (including Japan) having nigh-obliterated themselves in a cataclysmic war.

  • Maximilliano

    I honestly liked browsing your blog threads, and I’ve added you to my Google RSS.

  •,2677 trumny

    Yes, that is true, I agree with you, but I am not sure if there are no other options.

  • RyderChadwick

    The truth is that we shouldn't blame the government for what is happening, all we do is yapping about this and that. We are a nation of fat lazy people and we should do something for this situation to end, it's in our hands, because we make the nation, after all, not Obama or whoever we choose to blame. Is it his fault or it's just the hazard's? The situation would have been the same, with or without him.
    Ryder Chadwick – Narconon

  • Anonymous

    Flanagan further explains that the co-op alternative in the Baucus bill could lead to the gutting of state consumer protection laws on health insurance.

  • Appleday2010

    FaronLoren….First of all, where have you been all these years when these problems were just ignored or as G. W. Bush blithely put it, “…they can go to Emergency Rooms”? That was the ‘solution’. President Obama basically said, ‘it’s not a perfect plan’ and will have to be ‘twikked’. Next, you, as many Americans are, remind me of the Ostrich with its head in the sand. If you don ‘see’ it then it can not hurt you. Well you are already ‘paying’ unregulated and outrageous money for this country’s healthcare flaws. Do you and Bush really think that trip to the ER is free? It is not and we all pay …. big. And now you are worried about what you will pay? Well it is only because now you hav to see it. Sick people aren’t going to wait till you think a ‘recession’ is over or until it is convinant for you to get sick … you (we) are still paying. President Obama knows better than even you what condition jobs and the economy is in he has to live, eat, sleep, and poop with it. Sickness and cancer don’t care about these things either and you are still paying. Get your head out of the sand.

  • Appleday2010

    What you say here does tend to be overly generalized, imcomplete, and somewhat inaccurate. However, it appears your basic point is that ‘premature’ birth is defined differently in the US than it is defined in other countries … or there is no world agreement on the term, ‘premature birth’. Therefore, a child is born at 7 months in the US we would call it premature whereas a child born at 7 months in County X could be call a ‘spontaneous abortion’. As a result whe WHO counts the “Premature births” in US all 7 month birth will be a count against us but would not be counted against County X who considered it a SA. None the less, although this could be the reason the US was the worse in the world for premature births, this is not the only criteria the WHO uses to tally it’s ranking. Now I hear the WHO will no longer rank the world’s health care standings. If this is true, in my opinion, I believe it is because the US hostility toward WHO for ranking it so low. I don’t blame WHO I would want to hear the US botch either. We, the US, are a bunch of arrogant people who think we are better than the world, we don’t want to hear anybody tell us that this is not as true as we want to think. We do not take constructive criticism at all.

  • Medicaid Doctors

    Oh!…that’s great helpful, it’s so right to me! Million thanks for the article,

  • antivirus antispyware 2011

    But we should admit that people enjoy a good life in America due to good health care.

  • dui lawyer

    i say who cares about other nations? would you feed my kids before you would fed your own? would you get medical attention for a stranger instead of your own son? We are the sons and daughters of america, and america needs to take care of itself and it’s own problems. only then we can worry about others. dui lawyers.

  • Anonymous

    n Greatn job on the blog, it looks great. I am going to save it and will make sure ton visit weeklynu00a0

  • Stress Symptoms

    A great graphical presentation. The Health Care in US is very bad and the government doesn’t make a damn solution to the problem.