Health Care in the United States: Your Essential Guide

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A 2017 Commonwealth Fund study looked at the healthcare systems of 11 high-income countries. Healthcare in the United States ranked dead last in almost every category, making it the worst healthcare system among the most developed countries. 

Climbing healthcare costs, declining quality of care, and an increasing number of uninsured Americans could play a part in the US’s low ranking. And today, these issues still plague the US healthcare system, arguably now more than ever before. 

Meritage Medical Network wants to help make it easier to find a trustworthy source for your healthcare facts. That’s why the team has put together this guide.

Do you want the hard and fast facts about US medical costs, quality, and more? You’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn about the state of health care in the US today. 

Healthcare in the United States Costs

Per capita, the US spends more than $10,000 each year on health care. That’s more than twice as much as advanced countries like the UK, Australia, France, Canada, and New Zealand.

US employers spend more per capita on health care premiums than similar countries. Private employers spend $4,092 per capita in the US, which is five times higher than runner up, Canada. 

In 2018, healthcare spending per capita shot up by 290% from 1980. On average, US citizens spent $2,900 per person in 1980. Meanwhile, US adults today spend more than $11,000 per person per year. 

The US ranked first for the highest percentage of GDP (16.9%) going to health care costs in 2019. Compared to similarly advanced countries, that’s almost twice the average. Switzerland, coming in second, spends 4.7% less as a percentage of GDP.

National Spending

CMS estimates that total national health spending should hit $6.2 trillion by 2028. That amount is up from $3.6 trillion spent in 2018, growing at a rate of 5.4% between 2019 and 2028.

The growth rate of national spending on health care is 1.1% higher than the expected GDP growth rate (4.3%). At the same time, the share of the market spent on health care will increase from 2018’s 17.7% to a projected 19.7% in 2028.

The Burden of Healthcare Costs in America

40% of US adults forewent a necessary test or treatment in 2018 due to costs. Further, 30% of Americans say they would have to choose between necessities and paying a medical bill if a surprise bill arrived.

At the same time, the cost of health insurance premiums is rising. The national premium average rose to 30% in 2016, growing faster than individual average income during the same period. 

The increasing burden of health costs could be due to the rising prevalence of the high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The average annual deductible was $3,069 in 2016. That’s compared to the national average of $1,975 only six years prior. 

Meanwhile, over half of the country’s bankruptcies are due to medical expenses. 66.5% of bankruptcies in 2019 happened because of a surprise medical bill. 

How Healthy Are Americans?

Despite having one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world, the US has one of the developed-world’s lowest life expectancies. 

Total life expectancy was only 78.6 years in 2017. That’s far below the average that most advanced countries enjoy, with the Swiss expected to live an average of 83.6 years. 

Black Americans have even lower life expectancies in the US. The average life expectancy for a non-Hispanic black American is 75.3 years. That’s 3.5 years lower than the average white American (78.8 years). 

Infant Mortality

In 2017, the infant mortality rate in the US was 5.8 deaths per 1000 births. That’s more than 22,000 infant deaths in 2017 alone. Leading the way in infant mortality were states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. 

Like life expectancies, infant mortality rates also differ between racial and ethnic groups.

Black American babies are more than twice as likely to die during delivery than Hispanic and non-Hispanic white babies. Black American babies are nearly four times as likely to die during birth as compared to Asian Americans. 

Chronic Conditions

In the US, we waste a lot of money paying for preventable chronic conditions, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease

The US leads in the rate of chronic diseases and obesity. America also has one of the world’s highest rates of hospitalization due to diabetes and hypertension, falling only behind Germany.  

The Importance of Health Insurance in the US

Compared to similar countries, the US has the third-lowest rate of physician visits per capita. Americans tend to only visit the doctor four times per year, half the rate of leading countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia. 

The nation also takes the #1 spot for the fewest number of practicing physicians per 1000 people. Norway leads the way with approximately five doctors per 1000 people. The US offers only half that many.

US doctor shortages and low rates of doctor visits are associated with a lack of demand for medical services. Lack of demand is due, in part, to the fact that the US has the second-highest rate of out of pocket spending in the developed world. 

Switzerland leads the way with $2,069 spent on average. The US trails close behind with $1122 spent on out of pocket health care needs each year. 

What Happens When US Citizens Are Uninsured?

The number of uninsured or underinsured people in the US contributes to the country’s high out of pocket spending. 

From 2016 to 2017 and again from 2017 to 2018, the number of uninsured US adults increased. In 2018 alone, uninsured numbers rose by half a million from the previous year. 

The majority of uninsured people are low-income adults. People of color are also at a higher risk of lacking insurance due to the cost. For these people, there is either the option to forego necessary care (1 in 5 people do so) or face debt due to unaffordable medical bills.

Perhaps that’s why uninsured people are at a higher risk of developing major health conditions. Most of these health conditions are preventable with proper preventative medical care. 

Health Insurance Enrollment for Californians

With the current state of healthcare in the United States, health insurance is the only way to cut medical costs. Even more importantly, having an insurance plan can mean the difference between life and death.

Are you looking for HMS and Medicare insurance plans? Our physician-led network is currently available through open enrollment. Get in on our network today—enroll in your insurance plan now!

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