The high cost of healthcare in America

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the online news site Vox recently sought to open Americans’ eyes as to how much more we pay for healthcare compared to other countries.

America’s healthcare prices are out of control. These 11 charts prove it.

I can’t copy their charts, but basically they are bar graphs. The bar that shows how much patients in the US pay for similar drugs and services towers over the others like a skyscraper over a neighborhood of single-family homes. Like this:

healthcare costs graph

Vox got its information from the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP), an industry group that every other year puts together and publishes the global variations in healthcare pricing.

Last week they released their report on 2015 prices.

Designed to showcase the variation in healthcare prices around the world, the report examines the price of medical procedures, tests, scans and treatments in seven countries. Similar to recent years, the survey also shows the extreme pricing discrepancy for seven specialty prescription drugs.

The crazy high cost of prescription drugs in this country has gotten a lot of attention this year not only because it’s an election year, but because high drug costs are being blamed for the double-digit increase in health insurance premiums that many of us (like me!) will see in 2017.

Related post: Obamacare premium increases for 2017

Here is a list of some of the high-cost medical treatments the IFHP reported on, and Vox graphed:

  • Humira, an expensive biologic drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, costs (on average) $2,669 per month in the US; it’s $1,362 in the UK and only $822 in Switzerland.
  • Harvoni, the “game changer” for Hepatitis C, costs (again, on average) $32,114 per month in the US, but $16,681 in Switzerland.
  • Avastin, a pricey cancer drug, costs $3,930/month in the US, but only $470 in the UK!

Related post: The “financial toxicity” of cancer

What do medical tests and procedures cost, on average, in other countries?

  • An MRI in the US can cost over $1,000, but in Australia it’s about $200.
  • An appendectomy in the US costs $15,930; in Spain it’s $2,003.

There’s a reason medical tourism is popular for those without insurance, or those with super high deductibles and cost sharing!

  • The cost of a normal labor & delivery in the US is about $10,808; in Spain it’s $1,950.
  • A coronary bypass (for clogged heart arteries) can cost upwards of $78,000 in the US; in Switzerland, the next highest, it’s only $34,224.

Both the Vox graphs and the IFHP report are worth looking at if you’re interested in knowing more about cost discrepancies.

If you have “good” insurance you can be somewhat protected from these high costs, but more and more of us are paying higher deductibles, co-pays, premiums and taxes to pay for exorbitant healthcare costs.

And the prices for medical procedures (not drugs, so much) can vary dramatically from region to region, and even from hospital to hospital.

As we head into the election season and another open enrollment, I think it’s important that more patients/taxpayers are aware of how the US does or doesn’t negotiate with the drug companies for lower drug prices, or insist on increased pricing transparency for other medical procedures.

It’s still a Wild West of getting into the healthcare system and then just waiting to see what it costs.

It’s a lousy way to plan a household budget, let alone a federal budget.


Frugal Nurse


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