Report: U.S. health care costs significantly higher than other countries

April 23, 2014

According to a recent report from the International Federation of Health Plans, health care costs in the United States-including prescriptions, hospitalizations, and routine surgical procedures-often significantly outweigh costs in other countries.

According to a recent report from the International Federation of Health Plans, health care costs in the United States-including prescriptions, hospitalizations, and routine surgical procedures-often significantly outweigh costs in other countries.1

The 2013 Comparative Price Report compared U.S. health care costs against those from Australia, Argentina, Canada, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland.

Surgical costs

For cataract surgery, the average cost in the U.S. was $3,762, with the price of $8,233 coming in at the 95th percentile. Only Australia had a higher average cost for the procedure with $3,841-out-spending Americans by just $79. By comparison, cataract surgery in the other countries costs:

• New Zealand: $3,384

• Spain: $2,016

• Netherlands: $1,610

• Argentina: $1,038

“The high health care costs in the United States as shown in this report are eye opening. However, does the study also detail the outcomes from cataract surgery? In the U.S., most all cataract surgeons are performing clear corneal incisions with phacoemulsification, and the outcomes are outstanding,” says Optometry Times Chief Optometric Editor Ernie Bowling, OD, FAAO.

The U.S.is outspending the other countries on other common surgical procedures, as well. The average bypass surgery in the U.S. costs $75,345, compared to $15,742 in the Netherlands. A C-section delivery in the U.S. costs an average of $15,240, while in Spain it costs just $2,844. And the average appendectomy cost $13,910 in the U.S. and $1,723 in Argentina.

Other medical procedures

The average cost of a CT scan of the abdomen:

• United States: $896

• New Zealand: $731

• Australia: $500

• Switzerland: $432

• Netherlands: $279

• Argentina: $128

• Canada: $97

• Spain: $94

The average cost of an MRI:

• United States: $1,145

• New Zealand: $1,005

• Netherlands: $461

• Australia: $350

• Spain: $154

• Argentina: $141

• Switzerland: $138

The average hospital stay per day:

• United States: $4,293

• New Zealand: $2,491

• Australia: $1,308

• Argentina: $702

• Spain: $481

Prescription drug costs

For Enbrel (etanercept, Amgen), used to treat autoimmune diseases, the U.S. spends an average of $2,225. Switzerland spends $1,017 on average. For Humira (adalimumab, AbbVie), used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the U.S. spends an average of $2,246, compared to $881 in Switzerland. For Celebrex (celecoxib, Pfizer), used to treat pain, the U.S. spends an average of $225, compared to just $51 in Canada. And for Nexium (esomeprazole, AstraZeneca), used to treat acid reflux, the U.S. spends an average of $215-over 9 times what the Netherlands spends on average.

“The one area that is really concerning is the exorbitant cost of prescription medications, especially if the medication is the same from one country to another. Many will blame the high cost of medications in the U.S. on excessive governmental regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. It remains to be seen what effect the Affordable Care Act will have on spiraling healthcare costs,” says Dr. Bowling.

The report calculated U.S. prices through a database of over 100 million claims of prices negotiated and paid among thousands of providers and almost 100 commercial health plans. Prices for Australia, Argentina, and Spain were calculated from the private sector. Prices for Canada and Netherlands were calculated from the public sector. And medical procedure prices for Switzerland, England, and New Zealand were calculated from the private sector, while prescription drug prices were based on the public sector prices. All international data was provided by 1 private health plan in each country.

The report did note that comparisons across different countries “are complicated by differences in sectors, fee schedules, and systems. In addition, a single plan’s prices may not be representative of prices paid by other plans in that market.”ODT

References

1. International Federation of Health Plans. 2013 Comparative Price Report: Variation in Medical and Hospital Prices by Country. Available at: http://static.squarespace.com/static/518a3cfee4b0a77d03a62c98/t/534fc9ebe4b05a88e5fbab70/1397737963288/2013%20iFHP%20FINAL%204%2014%2014.pdf . Accessed 04/18/2014.