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5 facts about U.S. medical care

How much do you know about the American health system?

To mark the start of this year’s open season benefits enrollment period, here are five facts about health care in the United States collected by the Online Medical Care information website.

1. American health care is expensive. The United States spent $3.3 trillion — or $10,348 per person — on medical care in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency. In 2017, health care spending accounted for 17.9 percent of America’s gross domestic product, or the total value of goods and services produced by the nation that year.

2. The United States leads the world in health care spending. According to recent research, America spends 2.5 times as much per person as does the United Kingdom, a nation with comparable wealth. However, despite all the money spent, the United States ranks 12th in life expectancy among the 12 wealthiest industrialized countries.

3. Americans don’t go to the doctor as often as other people. On average, U.S. citizens see a doctor four times a year, compared to the 12.9 times per year that Japanese patients see their doctors on average, according to one analysis. Three countries — New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland — have a lower average number of doctor appointments than the United States.

4. U.S. medical wait times have reached new highs. In 15 major U.S. cities in 2017, the average time to make a physician appointment as a new patient was 24 days, up 30 percent from the previous three years, one study found. However, according to another report, the meetings with doctors average about 20 minutes, up from 15 minutes a few years ago.

5. The United States needs more doctors. The long wait times to see a doctor stem from a nationwide shortage of physicians. According to research by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the nation’s physician shortfall could reach 121,300 by the year 2030.

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