Health spending halts in many European countries

Health spending halts in OECD countries

OECD health data shows European spending on health has nearly halted since 2009.

Growth in health spending slowed or fell in 2010 in almost all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. This follows a period of rapid spending increases in the 34 OECD countries.

According to OECD health data for 2012 overall spending grew by 5% per year between 2000 and 2009. This was followed by zero growth in 2010. Preliminary figures for a limited number of countries suggest little or no growth in 2011.

At the start of the economic crisis, government health spending remained steady. It was in 2010 that cut to health spending started to appear. This was particularly evident in European countries worst affected by the crisis.

  • In Ireland, cuts in government funding drove health spending down by 7.6% in 2010, compared with an average annual growth rate of 8.4% between 2000 and 2009.
  • In Iceland, health spending fell by 7.5% as a result of a 9.3% reduction in public spending.
  • Following an average growth rate of 7% per year from 2000 to 2009 in Estonia, health expenditure fell by 7.3% in 2010.
  • Greece has seen total health spending drop by 6.5% in 2010 according to estimates. This is after a yearly growth of more than 6% since 2000.

In Ireland the reductions were made by cutting the salaries and fees paid to health professionals and pharmaceutical companies. Ireland has also reduced the number of health workers to help lower costs. In Estonia the government cut administrative costs in the ministry of health and also reduced the prices of publicly reimbursed health services.

Health spending outside Europe

Health spending growth has slowed down outside of Europe. It decreased around 3% in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. However, in South Korea spending grew by 8% in 2010.

In 2010 health spending as a share of GDP remained the highest in the U.S. (17.6% of GDP), followed by the Netherlands (12%) and France and Germany (11.6%). The countries who devote the lowest share of their GDP to health are Mexico (6.2%) and Turkey (6.1%). The share of public spending allocated to health has risen in Japan from 7.6% in 2000 to 9.5%, and is now equal to the OECD average.