We compare health care spending in the USA to other industrialized countries and find that payment rates for hospitals, physicians, and drugs are generally much higher in the USA than they are in other industrialized countries while the quantity of services – as measured by the number of physician visits, hospital days and prescriptions filled per capita – is relatively similar across countries. We then explore policy initiatives designed to control payment rates and volume of services and review the success and failures of these initiatives. Within the USA, the private sector pays significantly higher rates for hospital and physician services and drugs than the public sector. Thus, if the USA is going to reduce health care spending, it may be necessary to begin by reducing payment rates in the private sector. Options to achieve this goal are presented.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston