Americans don't get best care for cost

Stethoscope lying on money


Bill Radke: Compared to the rest of the developed world, Americans spend a whole lot on health care -- almost two and a half times the average of other rich countries. And it doesn't necessarily make us healthier. That is the conclusion of a report out this morning from a 30-nation group called the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The head of the OECD's health division is Marc Pearson. Good morning.

Marc Pearson: Hello.

Radke: Why do you conclude there's that the disparity in health care spending?

Pearson: Well, if you spend a lot, it's either because your prices are higher or you're doing more, or a bit of both. And in fact seeing the United States' case, it's a bit of both. Sometimes, doing more is a good thing. You have probably the best cancer care in the world, very high rates of screening, people live longer after they've been diagnosed with cancer. But when you get down to things like treatments of ashthma, diabetes, hypertension, really the United States' system doesn't perform at all well.

Radke: And what was new in this morning's report that stood out to you?

Pearson: Obviously I think the spending figures are extremely interesting, the fact that the United States is spending so much and is not really getting what you'd hope to get for its health dollar. I mean you really would be hoping, with that much spending, that you could actually see it in the quality of the health care system. Apart from cancer I think that's quite difficult to do. There's a lot of activity going on that is actually delivering health, not according to our figures.

Radke: Now what happens with this report, Marc?

Pearson: We don't tell countries how to stretch their health system, and we're not going to get involved in the health care debate in the United States, that an issue for Americans to decide. What we do think is that countries can learn from each other. If you can see that some country is doing much better than you at some parts of health care, it's worth looking at why. Yes, the U.S. system is rather different from other countries, has much more reliance on private expenditure. But even so, when you look at how countries are making best use of information technology, or how best they're linking local doctors and hospitals and nursing homes in order to have an integrated form of care, I think that's something the United States can learn from other countries.

Radke: Marc Pearson is head of the health division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Marc, thanks for joining us.

Pearson: Thank you very much.


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