Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A patient is treated for the flu in Louisiana. Healthcare costs in the U.S. were found to be twice as high as those in ten other developed countries because of high prices across the healthcare industry—from doctor's salaries to prescription drugs. (Photo: Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

For-Profit System Driving Up Health Costs for US, While Outcomes Remain Poor: Study

Spending more money on everything from administrative costs to doctors' salaries, the U.S. has ended up with worse healthcare outcomes than other high-income nations

Julia Conley

Yet another report shows how relying on a for-profit, private-insurance based healthcare model is driving up costs for people living in the U.S. while delivering poor outcomes.

New research shows that high healthcare spending in the U.S. stems not just from elevated prescription drug costs or its fee-for-service model—but from high costs across the American healthcare industry.

Researchers from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health compared healthcare costs and outcomes in the U.S. to those in ten other developed countries, including the U.K, Canada, Japan, and France.

The U.S. spends two times as much as the other high-income nations included in the study, paying its doctors far more and allowing its drug prices to skyrocket well beyond those of its counterparts.

Doctors in the U.S. are paid an average of about $218,000, compared with physicians in other countries who earn between $86,000 and $154,000 per year. Per capita spending for prescription drugs is also about $500 to $900 higher in the U.S. than it is in the 10 other countries studied.

Several of the countries the U.S. was compared to have government-run universal healthcare systems, while some including Switzerland and the Netherlands subsidize healthcare costs for many citizens. 

"Only the United States has a voluntary, private employer-based, and individual-based system," noted the study. "The majority of the countries do not have private insurance as the primary form of insurance."

"Most countries get to lower prices one of two ways: they either have a very strong price setter, usually a government agency, or more efficient markets," Dr. Ashish Jha, co-author of the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, told the Guardian. "The U.S. has figured out how to do the worst of both."

While the U.S. spends far more on its doctors, medications, and administrative healthcare costs, it has much worse outcomes than countries that ensure every citizen has free or affordable healthcare.

Life expectancy in the U.S. was the lowest of the 11 countries surveyed, and its rates of maternal and infant mortality were the highest.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Nearly 300 Artists, Celebrities Demand Hollywood End 'Disturbing' Support for Big Pharma's Vaccine Monopolies

"It is absurd that some of the associations that claim to represent creators' interests are instead fighting for Big Pharma."

Jake Johnson ·


As Omicron Emerges in US, GOP Accused of Trying to 'Sabotage Our Pandemic Response'

One Democratic lawmaker said Republicans' plot to shut down the federal government over a vaccination rule is "extraordinarily cynical and dangerous."

Jake Johnson ·


Watch: Bernie Sanders Hosts 'Saving American Democracy' Town Hall

"Republicans in state after state are working to make it harder and harder to vote. We can't let them succeed."

Common Dreams staff ·


As SCOTUS Considers 'Extinguishing' Right to Abortion, Calls Mount for Congress to 'Step Up'

"Despite the protections that the legal framework like Roe provides, it has never been enough," said one doctor. "We continue to work toward reproductive justice."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Time to Get the Job Done': Stacey Abrams Launches New Georgia Gubernatorial Bid

"Now more than ever, it's clear Brian Kemp's days as governor are numbered."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo