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Health expenditure for G7 countries since 1970Health expenditure for G7 countries since 1970

Health Care: America’s Underperforming Asset

If a stock performed as poorly as the U.S. health system has, shareholders would revolt.

Imagine you’re a stock analyst studying the big companies in a given industry. As you sift through the financials, you discover that one company spends twice what its rivals spend on operations, but its performance badly trails the entire group’s. Is that the stock you’d slap a “buy” rating on? Probably not. And yet, Americans keep investing in the laggard enterprise known as U.S. health care. Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health plans have jumped 55% since 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Life expectancy, meanwhile, has barely budged. Activist investors may want to call for a change in management.

A version of this article appears in the January 2019 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline, “Underperforming Asset.”

 

CHART SOURCES: OECD; UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD. NOTE: NO CONSISTENT DATA FOR ITALY UNTIL 1988; LAST FRAME SHOWS 2015 DATA (MOST RECENT) FOR FRANCE.