One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The Limitations of Assuming Data Consistency in Health Spending
May 7, 2018
The Health Affairs Blog today published a piece from RTI International, RTI Health Solutions and National Pharmaceutical Council researchers detailing the assumptions made – and the blind spots created – by a recent Journal of the American Medical Association piece by Papanicolas et al. suggesting that the United States spends more on health care than other countries because of higher prices, higher health care salaries, and administrative costs.
A more detailed look at the data underlying the claim, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), underscores the benefits and challenges of the dataset and making cross-country comparisons. These challenges fall into four categories:
One of the article’s authors, Leslie Greenwald, PhD, MPA, chief scientist and vice president, RTI International, explains why we need to dig deeper when examining these data.
There is a great deal of value in analyses such as those performed for the Papanicolas paper. But the limitations of the underlying data and the idiosyncrasies of the world’s largest health care market should be considered when drawing conclusions and developing policy proposals based on results from conjecture or inference rather than from actual data.