Governments Worried Sick Over Heathcare Spending

Healthcare spending is a big issue for voters around the world – but which countries spend the most?

The big surprise is the United States is the world’s biggest healthcare spender, according to the latest data for 2018 from think tank the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The US paid out 16.9% of GDP on health, way above the next highest spender, Switzerland, which allocated 12.2% of GDP.

The OECD average was 8.8%.

France (11.2%), Belgium (10.4%) and the UK (9.8%) all came in higher than average, while Mexico, Latvia, Luxembourg and Turkey all spent just 4.2% of GDP.

Cost of health outpaces GDP

But the OECD expects a major change as health expenditure will outpace GDP growth over the next 15 years in almost every OECD country, according to new OECD forecasts.

Health spending per head will grow at an average annual rate of 2.7% across the OECD and will reach 10.2% of GDP by 2030, up from 8.8% in 2018, according to a new OECD report.

As Tory leader Boris Johnson and his Labour counterpart Jeremy Corbyn pledge to spend billions more on the UK’s National Health Service, the OECD is looking at how money can be better spent rather than just increased.

“Increased use of generic drugs could save costs, but account for only half  the volume of pharmaceuticals sold across OECD countries. Generics accounted for more than three-quarters of the volume of pharmaceuticals sold in Chile, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but less than one-quarter in Luxembourg and Switzerland in 2017,” says the report Health At A Glance 2019.

Healthcare must improve

“Health and social systems employ more workers now than ever before, with about one in every ten of all jobs in OECD countries found in health or social care. Shifting tasks from doctors to nurses and other health professionals can alleviate cost pressures and improve efficiency.

“Increasing patient safety not only improves health, it can also save money. Almost 5% of hospitalised patients had a health care associated infection in 2015-17.”

The prescription from the OECD is that health services must do better to improve treatment outcomes for patients.

“Health systems can and must do better to improve the health of our populations. Measuring how health systems change people’s lives for the better is essential if we are to put resources where they can have most effect,” said Stefano Scarpetta, OECD Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs.