"The United States spends more on medical care per person than any country, yet life expectancy is shorter than in most other developed nations and many developing ones. Lack of health insurance is a factor in life span and contributes to an estimated 45,000 deaths a year," writes Michelle Andrews at National Geographic. "Why the high cost? The U.S. has a fee-for-service system—paying medical providers piecemeal for appointments, surgery, and the like. That can lead to unneeded treatment that doesn’t reliably improve a patient’s health. Says Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies health insurance worldwide, 'More care does not necessarily mean better care.'”

I actually missed the United States when I looked at the infographic above; I imagined that we'd be more towards the middle. Um, no. As you can see, the cost of health care in the United States is off the scale. (For more detail, including an explanation of why countries like Germany and Italy aren't included, be sure to read the reader discussion and author's responses)

What do most of the other advanced capitalist and social democratic countries on this list have in common? They tend to view "health care as something that everyone should share, like police and fire protection, parks, transportation facilities, and schools," as we write in "The Top Ten Shareable Events of 2009." It seems that viewing health care as a commons, as a resource for everyone, actually lowers costs, and improves the quality of care. 

Jeremy Adam Smith


Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is the editor who helped launch Shareable.net. He's the author of The Daddy Shift (Beacon Press, June 2009); co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct (W.W. Norton

Things I share: Mainly babysitting with other parents! I also share all the transportation I can, through bikes and buses and trains and carpooling.