Per capita spending for pharmaceuticals was $1,443 in the US, compared with a range of $466 to $939 in other nations.
"It is not possible to conclude that individuals in the United States pay higher prices for these services just by observing that they spend more but have the same number of visits for cancer care, receive different medications, or use the same number of stents without having granular data about the exact type of services and products being used", they write.
Researchers at Harvard University analyzed data from worldwide organizations on types of spending and performance outcomes between the US and other high-income countries: Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, Denmark, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
Researchers used 98 indicators to compare countries across seven areas: general spending, population health, structural capacity, utilization, pharmaceuticals, access and quality and equity.
What does explain higher spending in the U.S.is administrative complexity and high prices across a wide range of healthcare services. Health care accounts for nearly 18% of the U.S.'s GDP, compared to 9.6% to 12.4% in the other developed countries, the paper says.
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While it's been said that Americans use more medical services than peer countries, leading to higher costs, the study found salaries of physicians, as well as higher pharmaceutical prices play a significant roles in health care costs.
The average salary for a general practice physician in the USA was $218,173, while in other countries the salary range was $86,607-$154,126.
An extensive new analysis of why the USA spends so much more on health care than other rich countries reinforces the answer other recent studies have found: It's not that Americans get more care or relies on specialists to a greater extent than people in those other countries. In an editorial accompanying the new study, Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra of the University of Chicago and Harvard note that the latest analysis doesn't delve into the qualitative details of health care treatments Americans get compared to people in other countries.
The U.S.is also spending much more on pharmaceutical costs.
Contrary to popular belief, health care utilization, or how many go to the doctor, and social spending, or how much government spent to improve health, did not differ in the US compared to these countries.
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The results suggest that people looking to lower USA health care spending should look beyond factors commonly blamed for the imbalance - such as utilization of the medical system - when searching for solutions, the researchers write in the paper.
Evidence: Overall, quality of care in the US isn't markedly different from that of other countries, and in fact excels in many areas. It's that Americans pay more for everything from administrative costs to doctors and drugs. For example, the US appears to have the best outcomes for those who have heart attacks or strokes, but is below average for avoidable hospitalizations for patients with diabetes and asthma.
"As the United States continues to struggle with high healthcare spending, it is critical that we make progress on curtailing these costs", said first author Irene Papanicolas, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard.
Liana Woskie, assistant director of the Harvard Global Health Institute's strategic initiative on quality, was a co-author of the study.
Jha said whether the U.S. moves toward more private healthcare, as advocated by Republicans, or to single-payer healthcare, as advocated by liberal Democrats, price tags on all American health services need to be addressed.
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Where is the health care money going? Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses.