Medical Tuesday Blog

Cost of a CABG in the U.S. is 4+ times as high as Europe Margot Sanders Katz | NY Times

Jan 1

Written by: Del Meyer
01/01/2020 10:07 PM 

The International Federation of Health Plans, a group representing the CEOs of health insurers worldwide, publishes a guide every few years on the international cost for common medical services. Its newest report, on 2017 prices, came out this month. Every time, the upshot is vivid and similar: For almost everything on the list, there is a large divergence between the United States and everyplace else.

Patients and insurance companies in the United States pay higher prices for medications, imaging tests, basic health visits and common operations. Those high prices make health care in the U.S. extremely expensive, and they also finance a robust and politically powerful health care industry, which means lowering prices will always be hard.

For a typical angioplasty, a procedure that opens a blocked blood vessel to the heat, the average U.S. pric is $32,200, compared with $6.400 in the Netherlands or $7,400 in Switzerland, the surgery finds. A typical MRI scan costs $1420 in the United States, but around $450 in Britain.

The single-payer plans Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed would use a large government insurer to set prices for all medical services.

Such forced control from top to bottom will make healthcare unrelated to the benefits. This would distort the entire industry and raise havoc.

As Steve Forbes has repeatedly written, the answer to the costs is to make healthcare market based. Unfortunately, there is no such plans.

Health Plan USA has a plan that would solve the health care conundrum and restore prices to the lowest costs which would make hospital, laboratory and physician charges visible to patients prior to their exposure to surprise statements. The health insurers and hospitals may give some resistance, but the leverage of the patient would be determinative. The key item that it not understood is that the patient has to have a stake in the charges. This is easily accomplished by having a graduated deductible related to the age of the patient and a copayment that is graduated to the place of service.

This is not understood by any insurance carrier that still advertises policies with no deductible or copayment. What is poorly understood in those instances is that the insurance company has to have police powers to keep the ravishing health care appetites under control. That will cause a groundswell of resistance similar to the HMO experience of a previous decade.

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Margot Sanger-Katz is a domestic correspondent for The New York Times, where she writes about health care for The Upshot, the Times site about politics, economics and everyday life.

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  • Medical Gluttony thrives in Government and Health Insurance Programs.

It Disappears with Appropriate Deductibles and Co-payments on Every Service.

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