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Americans Spend The Most For Health Care, Still Die Young

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development just released its latest batch of data seeking to measure the quality of health care in each of its member states.

The rankings show that although the US spends more per capita on health care than any of the 34 other OECD member states, its average life expectancy of 78.8 years ranks is among the lowest found in the group, according to a Bloomberg analysis. 

According to the data, the US ranks near the bottom compared with its developed-country peers in prevalence of infant mortality and maternal mortality, as well as deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“It has the fourth highest infant mortality rate in the OECD, the sixth highest maternal mortality rate and the ninth highest likelihood of dying at a younger age from a host of ailments, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

There’s also a surprising disconnect between how healthy Americans believe they are, and how healthy they really are.  

“The U.S. is the most obese country in the OECD, leads in drug-related deaths and ranks 33rd in prevalence of diabetes. Yet 88 percent of Americans say they are in good or very good health, according to OECD statistics. Only 35 percent of Japanese, who have the highest life expectancy in the OECD, regard themselves as healthy or very healthy.

Bloomberg attributes the gap to the America’s reliance on “voluntary” health insurance, saying that OECD countries that rely on public health-care plans have much higher life expectancy, presumably because patients in these countries are incentivized to seek preventative care.

“Unlike other countries in the OECD, the U.S. mostly relies on voluntary health insurance to fund health-care costs. Public health insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, accounts for 27 percent of coverage. By contrast, the 10 countries with the highest life expectancy depend on voluntary insurance for an average of less than 6 percent of their costs, and government spending for nearly half.”

Pharmaceuticals are of the biggest drivers of the US's high health-care costs: The US spends more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country in the OECD.

The data arrive as President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders consider their next move in a battle to repeal and replace Obamacare. Their latest effort, a so-called “skinny repeal” bill that would’ve rolled back some of the more controversial aspects of Obama’s landmark health initiative was rejected by a one-vote margin when Sen. John McCain, who’s suffering from brain cancer, surprised his peers by voting “no” in an early-morning vote last week.

Health insurance costs are on track to rise much more quickly than inflation as Trump considers using executive actions to ditch key payments to Obamacare insurance companies if a repeal and replace bill is not passed. Insurers in five states requesting premium increases of more than 30%, using this “policy uncertainty” as an excuse the blame the president.

With so much “uncertainty” surrounding the future of health-care in the US, maybe Bernie Sanders will succeed in passing a single-payer initiative that he’s vowed to introduce. Of course, the tax increases that would be required to implement the legislation might trigger a few unintended health crises of their own once taxpayers see the bill.

The complete rankings can be found below: