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Study: U.S. Ranks Near Bottom in Efficiency of Health Care Spending

Women fare worse than men in most countries (December 12)

A new study by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and at McGill University in Montreal reveals that the U.S. health care system ranks 22nd out of 27 high-income nations when analyzed for its efficiency of turning dollars spent into extending lives. The findings were published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

The U.S.’s inferior ranking reflects a high price paid and a low return on investment, the authors say. For example, every additional hundred dollars spent on health care by the U.S. translated into a gain of less than half a month of life expectancy. In Germany, every additional hundred dollars spent translated into more than 4 months of increased life expectancy.

The researchers also discovered significant gender disparities within countries.

“Out of the 27 high-income nations we studied, the United States ranks 25th when it comes to reducing women's deaths,” said senior author Dr. Jody Heymann. “The country’s efficiency of investments in reducing men’s deaths is only slightly better, ranking 18th.”

The study, which used data from 27 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development collected over 17 years (1991–2007), is the first-known research to estimate health-spending efficiency by gender across industrialized nations.

Health care spending is a large and ever-increasing portion of government budgets, particularly in the U.S. Therefore, allocating the necessary resources for prevention and improving overall efficiency are both critically important to preventing premature deaths and to wiser spending, the researchers stressed.

Source: UCLA; December 12, 2013.

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