The OECD released its Health Data 2012 statistics several months ago and they are certainly worth a glance given that rising health spending is still a big international policy issue, and the capacity to pay has taken a recessionary hit during the first decade of the 21st century.
Of course, the largest share of GDP devoted to health spending remains with the United States at 17.6 percent (Figure 2). Next is The Netherlands at 12 percent, followed by Germany and France at 11.6 percent, then Switzerland and Canada each at 11.4 percent. The smallest share belongs to Turkey (6.1 percent) with the next largest shares belonging to Mexico (6.2), Estonia (6.3), Poland (7.0) and Korea (7.1).
Of course, the health to GDP ratio may be somewhat misleading given that health spending is less variable than GDP and some of the increases in the health spending to GDP ratio over the period 2000 to 2010 are simply due to poor economic performance in the wake of the financial and economic crisis, which started in 2008. This could particularly be the case for some hard hit European countries such as Greece or Ireland
Figure 3 provides the ranked average annual growth rate of real total health spending in each of the OECD countries for the period 2000 to 2009. The average annual growth rates range from a low of 1.9 percent for Italy to a high of 10.9 percent for the Slovak republic. The countries with the most growth in real total health spending are Poland(7 percent), Turkey(7.1), Ireland(8.4), Chile(8.7), Korea(9.1) and the Slovak Republic. The lowest average annual growth was in Italy followed by next highest Germany (2 percent), Portugal (2.3), Austria, France and Japan all at 2.7 percent. On this range, Canada and the United States come in around the middle of the pack at 4.6 percent and 4.3 percent respectively.
Based on all of these figures, it would appear that the health spending growth issue is still on the radar (pun intended). However, what is also interesting is if one plots the average annual growth rate in real total health spending for the 2000-2009 period against the value of H/GDP in 2000, there is a definite negative relationship. (Figure 4). Countries with lower H/GDP ratios in 2000 have seen higher growth rates of real health spending in the early 21st century. Those with higher values in 2000 of H/GDP have seen somewhat slower growth. Perhaps, there may begin to be some convergence in H/GDP ratios as we move into the second decade of the 21st century. More on OECD health spending to come in future posts.