An Analysis of Whether Higher Health Care Spending in the United States Versus Europe Is 'Worth It' in the Case of Cancer

Published in: Health Affairs, v. 31, no. 4, Apr. 2012, p. 667-675

Posted on RAND.org on April 01, 2012

by Tomas Philipson, Michael Eber, Darius N. Lakdawalla, Mitra Corral, Rena Conti, Dana P. Goldman

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The United States spends more on health care than other developed countries, but some argue that US patients do not derive sufficient benefit from this extra spending. We studied whether higher US cancer care costs, compared with those of ten European countries, were "worth it" by looking at the survival differences for cancer patients in these countries compared to the relative costs of cancer care. We found that US cancer patients experienced greater survival gains than their European counterparts; even after considering higher US costs, this investment generated $598 billion of additional value for US patients who were diagnosed with cancer between 1983 and 1999. The value of that additional survival gain was highest for prostate cancer patients ($627 billion) and breast cancer patients ($173 billion). These findings do not appear to have been driven solely by earlier diagnosis. Our study suggests that the higher-cost US system of cancer care delivery may be worth it, although further research is required to determine what specific tools or treatments are driving improved cancer survival in the United States.

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