Statistics on Healthcare Costs by Country
Healthcare expenditure is one of the most important policy items for any country’s government, affecting people at a fundamental level. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this an even more pressing subject, with a country’s ability to combat the disease contingent on its existing healthcare infrastructure. These statistics on healthcare costs by country will give you an idea not only about the resources spent on health at home and across the world but also on the effectiveness of this expenditure. Sadly, as you will learn, high costs don’t necessarily translate into high quality.
Statistics on Healthcare Costs by Country (Editor’s Choice)
- Global spending on healthcare rose to 9.8% of GDP in 2019. (WHO)
- High-income countries represent 81% of global health spending but have 16% of the world population. (WHO)
- Per-capita spending on healthcare in low-income countries was $26 in 2021. (WHO)
- Among OECD countries, the US has the highest health expenditure as a percentage of GDP in the world at 18.8%. (Statista)
- The US has the highest health expenditure per capita in the world at $12,318. (OECD)
- Healthcare expenditure per capita is higher than $3,000 in 27 countries. (OECD)
- The US has the highest pharmaceutical spending per capita in the world at $1,310. (OECD)
Cost of Healthcare Worldwide
1. Global spending on health rose to 9.8% of GDP in 2019, equal to $8.5 trillion.
The latest global health spending report by the World Health Organization suggests that global spending on health continues to rise. According to the data, high-income countries account for 80% of the expenditure. While government spending dominated in the high-income countries (70%), countries with low incomes relied on out-of-pocket spending (44%) and external aid (29%).
2. Between 2000 and 2017, health spending in low-income countries grew at 7.8% a year.
Based on healthcare expenditure by country, this growth was greater than in middle-income or high-income countries, where health spending grew by about 6.3% a year and 3.5% a year, respectively. In all cases, however, the surge in health spending was higher than GDP growth which was 6.4%, about 6%, and 1.8% a year in low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries, respectively. These figures show that, barring some exceptions, in most parts of the world, health spending is growing faster than the economy.
3. High-income countries represent 81% of global spending on health but have 16% of the world population.
The high-income countries’ share, however, has come down from 87% in 2000. As shown by healthcare spending by country, middle-income countries have been closing the gap in health spending, with their share of global spending rising from 13% in 2000 to 19% in 2017. Income growth in countries like China and India is the main driver behind this change. In 2000, more than 40% of the world population lived in low-income countries with less than 5% share in global health spending. In 2017, the population share had gone down to less than 10%, and the health spending share had decreased further to about 1%.
4. For low-income countries, per-capita spending on healthcare was only $26 in 2021.
Despite the overall growth in healthcare spending across the world, the distribution of global healthcare spending per capita remains highly unequal. By comparison, the spending per capita for high-income countries was $4,491 in 2019, more than 172 times higher than that in low-income countries. That said, even across countries with similar incomes, healthcare spending patterns can be very different, e.g., Brazil spends more than twice per capita on health compared to Turkey, even though they have similar per-capita GDP.
5. Global public spending on health grew by 2% between 2017 and 2019.
Data on healthcare costs per capita by country shows that the overall global health spending growth has been dominated by government spending in the 21st century. The role of government spending is the most prominent in high-income countries, where the average per capita public spending in 2019 was $3,191. The corresponding figures for low-income, lower-middle-income, and upper-middle-income countries were approximately $39, $119, and $472, respectively.
6. Out-of-pocket spending accounted for 44% of the total healthcare spending in low-income countries in 2019.
A comparison of healthcare costs by country reveals that the lower a country’s GDP, the higher the out-of-pocket healthcare spending. The figure was the highest for low-income countries (44%), closely followed by lower-middle-income countries (40%). Out-of-pocket spending made up 34% of total health spending in upper-middle-income countries, while for high-income countries, the figure stood at 21%.
7. Per-capita out-of-pocket spending grew from $14 in 2000 to $18 in 2017 in low-income countries.
The even greater growth in public spending meanwhile meant that the share of out-of-pocket spending came down in percentage terms, from 50% to 41%. Per capita out-of-pocket spending rose to $46 in lower-middle-income countries, while the figure reached $132 in upper-middle-income and $565 in high-income countries. Per capita healthcare spending by country data, however, shows that the share of out-of-pocket spending in overall spending in these three income groups fell to 39%, 32%, and 22%, respectively.
8. Health spending from external aid was $17 billion in 2019.
This figure is down 10.5% from the peak of $19 billion in 2014. The top five recipient countries were Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Out of those, three are middle-income countries. Nigeria received the largest share of external aid with $1.1 billion, or 6.5% of global external aid spending.
Cost of Healthcare by Country
9. At 18.8%, the US has the highest health expenditure as a percentage of the GDP among OECD countries.
As per the latest World Bank data, the US also ranks at the top among all large countries (including non-OECD) in this regard. Despite a high GDP and a high percentage of it spent on healthcare, the US doesn’t necessarily have the best functioning health system. Factors like high physician salaries and high pharmaceutical costs push up the health expenditure in the country. Canada (12.9%), Germany (12.8%), France (12.2%), and the United Kingdom (12%) follow the US as of 2020 based on the percentage of GDP spent on healthcare by country.
10. The US has the highest per capita health expenditure in the world at $12,318.
According to the latest data, the US has the most expensive healthcare worldwide, with the other top-ranked countries spending significantly lower on each citizen. Countries that also rank in the top 10 include: Germany ($7,383), Switzerland ($7,179), Norway ($7,065), Austria ($6,693), Denmark ($6,384), Sweden ($6,262), Netherlands ($6,190), Canada ($5,905), and Ireland ($5,836).
11. Healthcare expenditure per capita exceeds $3,000 for 27 countries.
Those at the lower end of this 27-country set include Israel ($3,057), Lithuania ($3,309), Slovenia ($3,498), Spain ($3,718), and Czech Republic ($3,805). The average per capita expenditure for OECD countries is $4,272. Among them, Mexico is the one with the lowest per capita health spending at $1,227.
12. India has among the lowest per capita health expenditures in the world at $231.
India also ranks low in terms of healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP (3.6%). Other notable countries with relatively low per capita healthcare spending include China ($1,227), Turkey ($1,305), Colombia ($1,336), and Brazil ($1,498$). In India and China, part of the reason for the low per capita expenditure is the very high population.
13. Switzerland has the highest per capita out-of-pocket healthcare expense at $1,557.
Out-of-pocket payments are costs borne directly by patients and not by insurance or any other government-offered measure. These expenses include cost-sharing, self-medication, and other costs directly paid for by private households. The latest figures on out-of-pocket healthcare costs by country show that other countries with high per capita expenditure are the US ($1,225), Portugal ($1,089), Korea ($1,040), and Austria ($1,033). At the other end of the spectrum, the figures for India, Colombia, Turkey, Croatia, and China are $126, $182, $214, $217, and $315, respectively.
14. Switzerland has the highest voluntary per capita spending on healthcare at $2,175.
Voluntary spending refers to health insurance provided by non-governmental entities. The figures for some of the other top-ranked countries — the US, Australia, Canada, and Austria — based on voluntary per capita spending on healthcare by country are $1,807, $1,604, $1,503, and $1,431, respectively. High numbers in this category indicate a well-developed private insurance industry. The lower-ranked prominent countries on this criterion include India ($153), Turkey ($276), Colombia ($286), Croatia ($329), and Costa Rica ($392).
15. The US has the highest per capita government spending on healthcare at $10,052.
Government spending, in this case, includes compulsory health insurance. Note that despite the highest government spending per capita, the share of public healthcare expenditure is lower than private expenditure. Based on government spending on healthcare by country, other names at the top are Germany ($6,351), Norway ($6,044), Denmark($5,453), and Sweden ($5,358). On the flip side, countries that have among the lowest per capita government spending on health include India ($76), China ($502), Brazil ($612), Mexico ($649), and Turkey ($1,029).
16. Among developed countries, the US has the highest per-person healthcare administrative costs at $2,497.
For comparison, Canada spends $551 on administrative costs per person. The main reason for this vast difference in healthcare administrative costs by country is believed to be the disparate system of private providers and insurers used in the US. Insurers’ overhead, the largest category among healthcare administrative costs, totaled $275.4 billion in 2017, i.e., 7.9% of all national health expenditure, and was responsible for the largest increase in administrative spending in the US since 1999. It is believed that if US administrative costs were to be brought down to Canadian levels, the country would save more than $600 billion in a year.
US Healthcare Spending Statistics
17. In the US, private health expenditure accounted for more than 15% of the total health expenditure per capita in 2020.
In 2020, Switzerland had the highest private per-capita health expenditure at $2,175.5, followed by the US with $1806.9. The shares of public expenditure in overall per capita health expenditure for the US, Australia, Canada, and Austria were 84.8%, 71.5%, 75%, and 76.5%, respectively.
18. The US has the highest pharmaceutical spending per capita in the world at nearly $1,310.
A reason for the US having the most expensive healthcare in the world is the high cost of medicines. The country spends more per person on pharmaceuticals by far compared to other top-ranked countries. For example, the figure for Japan, the second-ranked country as of 2021, is $954. The figures for Germany, Canada, and Switzerland are $948, $868, and $862, respectively. Unlike many other countries, drug prices in the US are not government-regulated but open to market competition.
19. Physicians in the US have an average income of $316,000, higher than any other country.
The higher cost of living and the higher medical school fees in the US are two of the reasons for higher compensation, adding to healthcare costs. If you compare healthcare costs by country, the International Physician Compensation Report 2021 shows that average physician earnings in Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and Brazil are $183,000, $138,000, $98,000, $70,000, $57,000, and $47,000, respectively.
20. The US performs 15.6 hip replacements per 1,000 population aged 65 and above.
According to experts, the relatively higher rates of elective surgeries and advanced testing procedures contribute to the US topping the list of average healthcare costs by country. Only Switzerland has more inpatient hip replacement procedures per 1,000 population than the US, with the OECD average being 10.5. Similarly, the US has one of the highest rates of MRI scans per 1,000 population at 111. France and Germany have higher rates, but the OECD average is just 65.
(The Commonwealth Fund)
21. Among OECD countries, the US has the lowest percentage of the population covered by government/social health insurance.
Almost all OECD countries have provided social insurance for 100% or more than 90% of their population, according to the most recent data on healthcare costs by country. Mexico’s government covers the insurance for 81% of its population, while Chile has made it available to about 78% of its population. In the US, however, government or social insurance covers just about 37% of the population. About 53% of the US population is under private health insurance coverage. For the remaining 10% uninsured, the high costs of healthcare in the country can prove particularly trying.
22. The average life expectancy in the US is 78.9 years.
A sign of the efficacy of the expenditure on healthcare is the average life expectancy of the population. Among countries that spend the most on healthcare, the US scores the lowest on this front, right after Colombia. The OECD average is 81 years, while the life expectancies in Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Korea are 84.4 years, 84 years, 83.9 years, 83.6 years, and 83.3 years, respectively. The US also has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is twice the OECD average.
(OECD, The Commonwealth Fund)
23. Among OECD countries, the US has one of the lowest numbers of physicians per 1,000 of the population (2.6).
The number of physicians stateside per 1,000 population compares to 6.2 in Greece, despite the highest healthcare costs by country in the US. Other countries with high numbers of physicians are Austria (5.3), Portugal (5.3), and Norway (5). One result of the low relative number of physicians is that Americans visit the doctor less frequently than elsewhere. Germany leads on this front, with 9.9 average physician visits per capita, followed by the Netherlands (8.3) and Australia (7.7). The figure for the US is 4.
(OECD, The Commonwealth Fund)
24. Hospitalizations for diabetes and hypertension in the US are nearly 50% higher than the OECD average.
Diabetes and hypertension are among the conditions considered preventable with access to primary care. The US had 204 and 159 annual discharges per 100,000 population for diabetes and hypertension, respectively, according to the latest data on costs of healthcare by country. Only Germany had higher rates of hospitalization for these two conditions. For hypertension-related cases, the US rate was nearly eight times that of the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada, the best-performing countries. For diabetes-related cases, the US rate was nearly four times that of the Netherlands and nearly three times the UK’s.
(The Commonwealth Fund)
25. In the US, 67.5% of adults aged 65 and above had a flu vaccine in 2021.
Among OECD countries, Korea had the highest flu vaccination rate among the elderly, at 80.7%. Other countries with vaccination rates over 70% were Denmark (78%), Chile (73.2%), Mexico (72.6%), the UK (72.4%), and Ireland (70.7%). On the other hand, Turkey and Latvia had the lowest vaccination rates at 5.9% and 9.1%, respectively. Being top-ranked in terms of per capita healthcare costs by country has had positive outcomes for the US in some areas. The US also has one of the highest percentages (77%) of women aged 50 to 69 screened for breast cancer against the OECD average of 62%.
Overall improvement in economic conditions has helped increase the expenditure on healthcare in most parts of the world. At the same time, as these statistics on healthcare costs by country show through the US example, higher expenditure needs to be coupled with the right policies to ensure the benefits reach the population to the fullest.