The Quals: An Autopsy of Health Reporting in the Latest OECD Numbers

In Health on March 21, 2010 at 10:14 PM

Obesity, life expectancy and health expenditure indicators are provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in their OECD in Figures 2009 released in September. With The Quants in such heavy debate lately relating to the financial market collapse and quantitative modeling through computer programmed trading, it is time to analyze The Quals for a change, that is, in the context of the other heavily spotlighted subject in the headlines, that is, healthcare reform policy.

The Run Thru is provided here in the form of scatter plots (see Appendix). These visuals speak for themselves. Here-in, one can map the health outcomes, that is, The Qual indicators, or Quality outputs, against the associated inputs, those being levels of health expenditure per capita, health expenditure-over-GDP and levels of public-over-total health expenditure, with the last two variables considered in percentage terms. All information is compiled from 2007 underlying data across the countries mentioned as composing the G-12, or Group of Twelve Nations. Data here allows for a great one-stop approximate comparison of the different countries’ health inputs and outputs.

Regarding the inputs, the United States proves to be the most expensive outlier in a well-defined sense, providing, judging from the facts, a sincere example of mismanaged economics. In particular, health expenditure per capita represents the highest level of all nations compared in sample — $7,290 per person. The next closest level spent is Switzerland — $4,417 — a country that has a Massachusetts-style plan of attack for handling medical arrangements — read The Swiss Menace. Data rankings have not changed much since 2006 — read G-12 Health.

Moving onward, health expenditure-over-GDP similarly represents the highest in the land — 16% — often referenced as approximately 1/6 of the United States economy. The next closest country is France — 11%. It should be noted that over time health expenditure-over-GDP has increased from 13.4% in 1997 to 16% in 2007. Just a little recall of history provides some helpful background perspective here.

The Republican-controlled Congress in 1993 under the Clinton Administration rejected a proposal mandating health insurance. Nonetheless, however, President Clinton went on to become a very successful president in terms of budget surpluses and fiscal management — a point often overlooked in political conversation. Looking back, framing things a little differently, health expenditure per capita now hovers at just over $7,000 per person, rising from $4,055 in 1997, resulting from The Contract for America, issued in by Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Reportedly, Dick Armey is scurrying to retain his government-subsidized low-cost Congressional insurance coverage, leveraging off of the benefits afforded by bargaining power advantage and Wal Mart-style economies of scale — watch The Man Behind the Protests.

Regarding outputs, the United States has the highest Obesity Rate — 34.3% — where Obesity rate is defined as percent of adults with BMI > 30 kg/m. Additionally, life expectancy is lowest in the United States — 78.1 years. Balancing things out, tobacco consumption here ranks among the highest success outcomes compared to other nations — 15.4% — where tobacco consumption is defined as percent of adults smoking daily. Impressively, Sweden fairs most favorably, leading the way — 14.5%. Interestingly, European outlier, Greece, a nation outside G-12 status, portrays the most stressed country according to the results, leading all other countries — 40%.


Graph 1: Obesity versus Public Expenditure

Graph 2: Life Expectancy versus Public Expenditure

Graph 3: Tobacco Consumption versus Public Expenditure

Graph 4: Health Expenditure-Over-GDP versus Public Expenditure

Graph 5: Health Expenditure Per Capita versus Public Expenditure


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