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Buy More, Get Less, Die Sooner?

January 5th, 2010, 04:01 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

Via Nate, here are two pretty striking representations of the same data on the costs of healthcare, versus one measure of effectiveness of a system–life expectancy.

Spending/Life Expectancy

Scatter graph

The first one, originally from National Geographic’s NGM Blog Central demonstrates perhaps even more graphically how much of an outlier the U.S. is when it comes to spending per person on health care. The width of each of the lines, representing various countries, shows utilization of care, in terms of average doctor visits per year. That same statistic is represented by the size of the bubble for each country.

So we spend more, use less, and have worse outcomes. The low life expectancy in the U.S. is also a factor of the huge number of uninsured we have in this country, accounting for as many as 45,000 deaths annually. What these graphs ultimately show is that the existing system is severely out of whack, and the dollars being poured in are largely misdirected.

Gearing a “reformed” system toward reinforcing low utilization, as the Senate bill does with its high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, might not be the silver bullet to reducing costs in the overall system after all.

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