The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) recently published its 274 page “Health at a Glance 2021” report. As always, with statistics, where we look determines what we see.
Perhaps, as a result, we have bad news and good news.
OECD Healthcare Spending and Outcomes
The Bad News
As you would expect, the numbers confirm U.S. healthcare spending is relatively high and the outcomes are too low. Among OECD countries–mostly a high income group–the pre-pandemic average was 8.8 percent of GDP.
Way above the average, at 16.8%, the U.S. was in the top spot, followed by Germany and Switzerland:
When we correlate spending with life expectancy (LE), we wind up with a dismal position for the U.S. that the Report illustrates in a quadrant graphic. Before presenting its life expectancy and outcomes graphics, they explained the quadrants:
Below, in the data graphic, above the horizontal line is where we have the longest LE. Meanwhile, the lower left quadrant is where we find the lowest spending
The U.S. red dot is located below the OECD average LE and to the right of the spending totals:
Similarly problematic for the U.S., a second graphic shows the correlation between spending and what they call avoidable mortality. By “avoidable mortality,” they mean preventable and treatable diseases.
Correspondingly, the percents represent the higher mortality we want to avoid:
The following quadrant shows us that here, again U.S. performance is subpar. It spends more and has higher avoidable mortality rates:
The Good News
But we might be healthier than we think. Occupying the upper right quadrant, we are pleased with our access to quality services:
Consequently, 83 percent of Gallup’s survey participants expressed satisfaction with U.S. healthcare availability:
Our Bottom Line: Human Capital
As economists, we can return to the significance of human capital. Defined as our store of knowledge, we should leap to its externalities. When we are healthy, we learn more, we work harder, we are more capable of elevating our standard of living.