The United States' population should not be so expensive

One of the most commonly heard memes when it comes to the high cost of health care is that somehow the United States population is predisposed to be more expensive.  Somehow, we are inherently more costly.  Or we do stuff to make us unhealthy.  It’s just not true.

Here are some more slides I use when I talk about quality.  Again, this is OECD data, and I will show you eight of hte 10 richest countries in the world with all data available since 1993.

Can we agree that the elderly cost more?  So a population that consists of more elderly people would inherently be more expensive.  Here is the percentage of the population age 65 or older:

Huh.  So the United States has the lowest percentage of expensive elderly people.

Conversely, kids are cheap.  They are much healthier and have fewer chronic illnesses.  The more kids you have in your population, the cheaper it should be to care for:

Hmm.  So the United States has a higher proportion of young people than any of the other countries.  It seems like – if anything – the United States is predisposed to have the lowest health care costs by age.

But wait!  We do stuff to make ourselves unhealthy- like smoke.  Right:

Wrong.  The United States has almost the lowest tobacco use of any of these countries.

It must be alcohol then:

Nope.  Turns out that people in the United States have some of the lowest rates of alcohol consumption.

Don’t despair.  We are more overweight or obese than those other countries:

But come on, our percentages are barely higher than the United Kingdom, which costs less than half as much per person as our system.

So, yes, we are heavier than those other countries.  But that alone can’t account for the extremely high cost of health care in the United States, especially given that we smoke less, drink less,  and have a higher percentage of cheap kids along with a lower percentage of expensive elderly.  There must be another reason health care costs so much in the United States.

There is.

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