A majority of countries in a new international study managed to slow the growth of healthcare costs in the past decade.
Two countries, Sweden and Denmark, actually spent less of their gross domestic product on healthcare in 1992 than they had a decade earlier, according to a report recently released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In the United States, health spending rose as rapidly from 1982 to 1992 as it did in the previous decade-about 36%. The United States spends 14% of its GDP on health, far more than any other nation.
The report tracked health expenditures and changes in the medical systems in 17 countries.
It concluded there was no one single solution to the problem of restraining health costs.
A variety of approaches can slow the medical cost spiral, with success depending "on the strength of the determination of governments and the political power of the various actors who may attempt to resist controls," the study said.
"Governments which are united in the drive to control costs seem to be able to find ways to do so," however their medical systems are organized, it said.
Health expenditures as a percentage of GDP fell in Denmark and Sweden between 1982 and 1992. The growth rate slowed in Australia, Austria, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Portugal.
The countries where health expenditures rose more rapidly were Canada, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy and Norway.
The study had no figures to compare the 1980s and 1970s for Switzerland and Turkey.
In most OECD countries, about 75% of health expenditures are paid for from public sources. In the United States, which does not have universal health insurance, the government pays 46%.
The countries' health expenditures as a percentage of GDP in 1992 were: United States, 14%; Canada, 10.8%; Finland, 9.4%; Switzerland, 9.3%; Austria, 8.8%; Italy, 8.5%; Norway, 8%; Iceland, 8%; Australia, 7.9%; Sweden, 7.9%; New Zealand, 7.7%; Luxembourg, 7.4%; Japan, 7%; Denmark, 6.6%; Portugal, 6%; Greece, 5.4%; and Turkey, 4.1%.-