As supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act debate the best way to overhaul a clearly broken health care system, it's perhaps helpful to put American medicine in a global perspective.
The infographic below is based on a recent Bloomberg ranking of the most efficient countries for health care
, and highlights enormous gap between the soaring cost of treatment in the U.S. and its quality and effectiveness. To paraphrase Ricky Ricardo, the American health care system has a lot of 'splainin' to do.
It's remarkable how low America places in health care efficiency: among the 48 countries included in the Bloomberg study, the U.S. ranks 46th, outpacing just Serbia and Brazil. Once that sinks in, try this one on for size: the U.S. ranks worse than China, Algeria, and Iran.
But the sheer numbers are really what's humbling about this list: the U.S. ranks second in health care cost per capita ($8,608), only to be outspent by Switzerland ($9,121) -- which, for the record, boasts a top-10 health care system in terms of efficiency. Furthermore, the U.S. is tops in terms of health care cost relative to GDP, with 17.2 percent of the country's wealth spent on medical care for every American.
In other words, the world's richest country
spends more of its money on health care while getting less than almost every other nation in return.
It's important to note that this data doesn't necessarily reflect the best health care in the world; it is simply a measure of overall quality as a function of cost. Bloomberg explains its methodology as such:
So what can the U.S. learn from the many countries that get more bang for their health care buck? Unsurprisingly, there is no one formula for success when it comes to efficient medical care. The systems that rank highly on Bloomberg's list are as diverse as the nations to which they belong. The unifying factor seems to be tight government control over a universal system, which may take many shapes and forms -- a fact evident in the top-three most efficient health care systems in the world: Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan.