Austin Frakt had a very interesting piece in the Upshot the other day, on U.S. health spending – and U.S. health — in international perspective. Everyone knows that U.S. spending is more or less literally off the charts compared with everyone else, while many are aware that we have also diverged, in the wrong direction, on measures like life expectancy: we’re falling further than further behind the rest of the advanced world.
What Frakt points out is that it was not always thus. The dismal U.S. combination of high costs and poor results only began to emerge around 1980, which poses a mystery:
In most countries, more health spending coincided with much longer lives. But the U.S. diverged from peer nations around 1980. Each dot below represents one year in a country between 1970 and 2003.
What changed? In a subsequent post, Frakt suggests that U.S. exceptionalism may be related to income inequality. And it’s true that income inequality began its huge rise just about the same time that U.S. health care apparently went off the rails…