Hive Health Media

Eleven Countries That Spend the Most on Healthcare

When healthcare spending is examined on a global level, major differences are revealed in how countries approach the health needs of their people. The countries that spend the most on healthcare spend about 16 times more than the countries that spend the least on healthcare. However, the cost of healthcare does not equate to longevity. For example, while the United States spends more than any other country on healthcare, it ranks 27th overall because residents only live an average of 77 years.

Several countries have a higher life expectancy even though they spend significantly less on healthcare. In some countries, instead of running parallel to hefty healthcare costs, life expectancy tends to be related to education level and ethnicity. Countries with high life expectancies also have greater access to cleaner drinking water, less contaminated natural resources or less sources of pollution. The following is a ranking of the top 11 countries based solely on what is spent on healthcare. All figures are in U.S. dollars.

1. United States ($4,271 per capita)

The U.S. spends more than twice as much on healthcare per person compared to any other industrialized nation and ranks high among countries that provide preventative care. The amount of money spent on healthcare and the quality of care provided has reduced the number of preventable deaths in the U.S under the age of 75 to 100 deaths per 100,000 people. Despite this, the U.S. has a higher percentage of those who do not have sufficient access to healthcare when compared to other industrialized nations.  Even though most healthcare in the U.S. is provided by the private sector, approximately 60-65% of healthcare spending and provision comes from government programs such as Medicare. Nearly 17% of the population is uninsured according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

2. Switzerland ($3,857 per capita)

Switzerland has universal healthcare regulated by the Federal Health Insurance Act of 1994. Healthcare costs in Switzerland are about 10.8% of the country’s GDP. Out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare in Switzerland average $1,350 per person per year. Health insurance covers medical treatment and hospitalization of the insured. Preventative care can be restrictive sometimes, but overall quality of care is comparable to that of the United States. All residents of Switzerland and those residing in the country for at least three months are required to purchase heath insurance.

3. Norway ($3,182 per capita)

Norway’s healthcare system is managed by the nation’s individual counties. The country’s single-payer universal healthcare ranked 11th in overall performance and efficiency according to a 2000 report by the World Health Organization that ranked all 190 UN member nations. All Norwegian citizens and residents are covered. The National Insurance Scheme is paid for through tax revenue and amounts to 45% of the country’s GDP. Physician’s benefits are said to be very generous, which accounts for an overall high quality of available medical staff.

4. Australia ($2,886 per capita)

Australia’s healthcare system is a combination of government and private options. Nearly 70% of healthcare expenditures in Australia are funded by the nation’s federal government. Roughly one in every 11 dollars spent by the Australian government is on healthcare, equaling about $87 billion or 9% of the country’s GDP. The federal government pays about $37 billion annually on healthcare, and its territories spend about $22 billion. Health spending per person has increased almost 45% over the past decade in Australia. Indigenous Australians spend close to 17% more than other Australians on healthcare. Spending on medication has increased by nearly 2% over the past five years.

5. Denmark ($2,785 per capita)

Denmark’s healthcare system is divided into primary healthcare and hospital care. Denmark has a high standard of healthcare with a fully tax-funded system available to all citizens and residents. The Danish health system is unique because it is fully decentralized to the community level. Funding starts on a federal level and is distributed to individual communities. All treatment starts at the primary care level with referrals made to the hospital sector when needed. Approximately 90% of Danish citizens report being satisfied with the level of healthcare they receive.

6. Germany ($2,697 per capita)

The unique feature of the German healthcare system is the creation of what is known as a sickness fund. All citizens with an incomes under a certain level are required to enroll in this fund and a 15% payroll tax finances the fund. Physician reimbursement rates from this fund are set by the doctor’s as opposed to the federal government. An estimated 99.6% of German citizens and residents are insured. The U.S. has roughly four times the available medical technology found in Germany, but competition from the private sector has increased the availability of some standard testing equipment. There is also an increased emphasis on community-based care.

7. France ($2,288 per capita)

France has a universal healthcare system used by many nations as a model for providing healthcare with little wait time and access to updated technology. Large occupation-based funds account for most of the nation’s healthcare funding. The General National Health insurance Scheme covers about 83% of French workers with the rest covered by other similar funds resulting in coverage for about 99% of all French citizens and residents. France has the third most expensive healthcare system among industrialized nations.

8. Japan ($2,243 per capita)

Japan has a universal healthcare system built largely on mandatory employment-based insurance. Healthcare benefits in Japan are said to be generous with a wide range of provider options. Medical technology is on par with the U.S., but costs are lower due to an increased level of cost sharing. The average household in Japan spends about $2,300 on out-of-pocket expenses per year. A lower incidence of disease and an overall healthier lifestyle also contribute to the quality of life and healthcare in Japan. A cultural aversion towards invasive procedures also accounts for lower health-related costs in Japan.

9. Netherlands ($2,173 per capita)

The Netherlands has a healthcare system funded largely by tax revenue. They place a strong emphasis on medical technology in order to provide top-quality care. Each province is divided into hospital districts with a central hospital offering more specialized medical care. Physicians emphasize patient care because their pay is based in part on how many patients choose them as their primary care provider.

10. Sweden ($2,145 per capita)

Sweden has a national heath care system with medical facilities divided into four categories: local health centers, regional teaching hospitals, county level hospitals and district level hospitals. Widespread use of electronic medical records and computerized practices keeps health costs at a reasonable level. Technology is generally on par with what is available in the U.S. and Japan.

11. Belgium ($2,137 per capita)

Belgium’s healthcare system is funded through a state sickness fund with four tiers of operation: the central government, national associations, local mutual aid societies, and federations of local societies. The country’s healthcare system is based on sharing operations to provide widespread community-based care. Privately managed hospitals coexist with national hospitals in an effort to keep costs at a minimum.

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This post was written by contributing author at Hive Health Media. If you would like to write for us about health, fitness, or blogging topics, click here.


  1. [email protected] to Stop Sweating

    August 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I am surprised that the United Kingdom is not on this list, it seems like they spend a fortune on health care! The trouble with the eating habits of Americans is that there are way too many fast food restaurants on just about every corner imaginable. I became more apparent of this when I was dieting and the temptation is quite overwhelming. The convenience factor and easy access to junk food just encourages people more and more. When I visited the UK last year, it was very noticeable that there were far less fast food joints over there, and I think that is a good thing and probably similar in other parts of Europe.

  2. [email protected] Infection in Men

    August 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I am not surprised to see the US on top of this list. And yet we are one of the the lowest health populations in the world. But I am afraid that until Americans wake up to what’s going on, our health will never get better.

    As an example: With all of the money we spend ‘fighting’ cancer, and it is projected that in the next few years cancer will effect 1 out of every 2 people in the US. 50% cancer rate? Fighting for the cure – we can hear the commercials.

    Heck, when we weren’t at war with cancer it was far less common.

    We need to start considering that our nutrition and environment may be making us ill. In the US we eat ‘food’ that is banned in other countries, including Europe. We need to wake up and start eating better quality food. Then our bodies will stand a better chance against all of the pollution and chemicals in our environment.

    We also need to consider that there is a lot of money to be made treating these diseases, and a lot less for curing or preventing them.


  3. Clare

    August 11, 2011 at 5:57 am

    This recent report on healthcare systems by the a US foundation called the Commonwealth Fund, a comparative analysis of the healthcare systems in 7 countries ( USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) found the USA ranked lowest, despite spending the most, and the UK ranked 2nd overall, and first for effectiveness and efficiency, despite spending the less than all the others except New Zealand. (See page V for a summary table). That’s because the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) a tax-payer funded system which is not-for-profit and is free at the point of delivery: no doctor’s bills, no hospital bills, and modest prescription charges for drugs (less than $10 per item). It’s far from perfect – and often not pretty – but it works, and very effectively and efficiently too. People in the UK love to complain about its imperfections, but we would not be without it and any attempts by politicians who try to meddle with it cause a public outcry and political storm (as the current administration is learning).

  4. Jupitor Chakma @ Health Blog

    August 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    The amount you mentioned (spent on health care) here is spent by the Govt. as well it includes individual expenditure too?
    I think we should be focusing how much Govt. spend per capita and not total expenditure by individuals plus Govt.

  5. Nolan Dang

    August 10, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I disagree that it is entirely the big insurance fault. Sure they are to blame but they wouldn’t have so much stranglehold if our politicians didn’t engage in corruption with them. Follow the money on big insurance companies and their donations to certain politicians, then the picture should become more clear.

  6. John G. Abbott, CEO, Health Council of Canada

    August 10, 2011 at 11:58 am

    This blog provides an interesting comparison of health care spending across select countries around the world, and recognizes that the cost of health does not necessarily equate to a better health system.

    There are many factors (including cost) that help evaluate a health system’s performance. One factor may be public perception – are patients really satisfied with their level of care?

    The 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey compared results from 11 countries on the public’s perception of the performance of their health care system. The countries that participated in the survey were: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States. Interestingly, higher cost systems do not necessarily equate to higher satisfaction – Canada is a case in point.

    Read the Health Council of Canada’s report, How do Canadians Rate the Health Care System – – to see citizens’ insights into the performance of their countries’ health care systems.

    John G. Abbott, CEO, Health Council of Canada

    • ElizaWinters

      January 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      I am surprised to see how much everyone spends on medical care. I guess that would be why there is always a demand for physical therapist jobs. It seems that everyone has something going on and in this day and age it is easier to let the doctor fix it than to work on it alone. Bad news for us spending but great news for professionals.

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