Highest Healthcare Expenditures In The World Relative To GDP

Frequent use of advanced procedures and pharmaceuticals contribute to high healthcare costs in the U.S.A.
Frequent use of advanced procedures and pharmaceuticals contribute to high healthcare costs in the U.S.A.

Nations around the world have invested heavily in their health sectors to improve the quality of health services and mitigate anything that may threaten the health of their citizens. Health expenditure keeps increasing in most countries to meet the existing and future health demands. Health expenditure is the total amount of resources spent on health goods and services including preventive and curative, family planning activities and emergency funds set aside. Health care spending is mainly pushed up by the cost of medical services offered by the physicians and the increasing cost of drugs. Some of the countries with the highest healthcare expenditure in the world include the US, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Maldives, and the Micronesian Federal States among others.

Countries With The Highest Healthcare Expenditures In The World

United States

Healthcare spending in the US is expected to account for over 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2021. Currently, US is the biggest spender in healthcare with an expenditure of $2.8 trillion accounting for 17.1% of the country’s GDP. Even with the higher health care spending, the US is not able to meet the healthcare demands. 51% of the healthcare expenditure goes into payment for services offered by medical physicians. 30% of the total health care cost goes towards the improvement of health facilities and equipment, and 70% goes to drugs and emergencies. Healthcare expenditure is higher in the US because of the increasing cost of medical technology, wasteful spending by the health providers, and unhealthy lifestyles in the US.

Marshall Islands

Marshall Island is a small Island covering an area of 181 square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. The country has a population of around 53,000 people. Marshall Island government has made it a priority to provide access to healthcare services for all its citizens as clearly stated in its mission’s statement. Government expenditure on health accounts for 17.1% of the GDP which mainly finance improvement of health facilities such as hospitals, dispensaries, and clinics. External funding from agencies such as the World Health Organization has also improved the quality of healthcare in the Marshall Islands.


Tuvalu spending on health was 16.5% of the GDP, translating to $649 per capita. Private medical practices in Tuvalu are broadly unpopular, and therefore most of the available health facilities are public. 99% of funding for the medical infrastructure in Tuvalu comes from the government. The government also finances pharmacies and dental clinic thus accounting for such a high expenditure.


Maldives is the only country in Asia that has achieved five or more United Nations Millennium Development Goas (MDGs). One of the areas of achievement is in the health sector where the country has managed to achieve remarkable success in controlling communicable diseases. Healthcare is considered an essential need and the government is heavily investing in the health sector. 13.5% of the country’s GDP goes towards the improvement and provision of health services in the country.

The Challenge of Expensive Healthcare

Healthcare expenditure on local clinics and dispensaries enables those in remote areas also to access healthcare services without traveling long distances. Spending on equipment such as ambulance vehicles ensures that emergency cases are handled efficiently minimizing loss of life. Healthcare expenditure on medical physicians also ensures that there are enough human resource personnel to handle the ever-rising healthcare needs. Patients are also likely to spend less for health care services if the healthcare facilities become efficient and functional.

Countries With The Highest Healthcare Expenditures In The World

RankCountryHealth expenditure, total (% of GDP)
1United States17.1
2Marshall Islands17.1
5Micronesia, Fed. Sts.13.7

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