US spends most on health care but has poorer health outcomes among high-income countries, new report finds

A red tubed stethoscope lies on a US flag

A red tubed stethoscope lies on a US flag.

Credit: Creator: Mark Stahl .Copyright: © 2009.  Mark Stahl



The United States spends more on health care than any other high-income country but still has the lowest life expectancy at birth and the highest rate of people with multiple chronic diseases, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, an independent research group.


The report, released Tuesday, also says that compared with peer nations, the US has the highest rates of deaths from avoidable or treatable causes and the highest maternal and infant death rates.

“Americans are living shorter, less healthy lives because our health system is not working as well as it could be,” the report’s lead author, Munira Gunja, senior researcher for The Commonwealth Fund’s International Program in Health Policy and Practice Innovation, said in a news release. “To catch up with other high-income countries, the administration and Congress would have to expand access to health care, act aggressively to control costs, and invest in health equity and social services we know can lead to a healthier population.”

People in the US see doctors less often than those in most other countries, which is probably related to the US having a below-average number of practicing physicians, according to the report, and the US is the only country among those studied that doesn’t have universal health coverage. In 2021 alone, 8.6% of the US population was uninsured.

“Not only is the U.S. the only country we studied that does not have universal health coverage, but its health system can seem designed to discourage people from using services,” researchers at the Commonwealth Fund, headquartered in New York, wrote in the report. “Affordability remains the top reason why some Americans do not sign up for health coverage, while high out-of-pocket costs lead nearly half of working-age adults to skip or delay getting needed care.”

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