Expenditure on health in the EU
In 2015 at the level of the EU, health expenditure remained the second largest item of general government expenditure after spending on ‘social protection’.
In 2015 in the EU-28, total spending of general governments on ‘health’ amounted to 7.2 % of GDP.
- Hospital services accounted for 3.4 % of GDP
- Outpatient services accounted for 2.2 % of GDP and
- Medical products, appliances and equipment accounted for 1.0 % of GDP.
The largest amount of government expenditure on health was reported by Denmark (8.6 % of GDP), Norway (8.4 % of GDP), France (8.2 % of GDP), Austria and the Netherlands (8.0 % of GDP) and the smallest by Switzerland (2.2% of GDP), Cyprus (2.6 % of GDP) and Latvia (3.8 % of GDP).
Trend: Health spending is increasing
In absolute terms, at the level of the EU-28, general government ‘health’ spending increased relatively smoothly between 2002 and 2015 – amounting to 13.7 % of total expenditure in 2002, 14.7% of total expenditure in 2009 and 15.2% in 2015.
As a ratio to GDP, EU-28 government health expenditure amounted to 6.2 % of GDP in 2002 and 7.2 % of GDP in 2015. The highest level reported is in 2009, at the onset of the economic crisis, at 7.4 % of GDP, being due to a decrease in nominal GDP and not due to an unusual increase in government expenditure.
NCDs fuel health spending increases
Non-communicable diseases (cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, lung disease) and their four major risk factors (tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity) make up the biggest share of the burden of disease in Europe, which too often results in premature morbidity and loss of healthy life years.
Globally, Europe has the highest NCDs burden, causing 86% of all deaths. WHO considers the rise in NCDs an epidemic and estimates that this epidemic will claim the lives of 52 million people in the European Region by 20303. Chronic diseases affect more than 80% of people over 65 in Europe.
The growing burden of NCDs therefore represents a major challenge for health systems across Europe. NCDs and their four risk factors also impact on the wider social system and economies in Member States.
Between 70% to 80% of healthcare costs are spent on NCDs. This corresponds to €700 billion in the European Union – a number that is set to increase in the coming years.
Lack of investment in prevention
NCDs are modifiable and preventable, which means that healthcare spending could be reduced. However, currently governments are failing to invest in prevention, including best buy policy interventions. Data shows that about 97% of health budgets are presently spent on treatment, while only 3% is invested in prevention.