Written by Cristian Gonzalez
With the recent talk about shifting health care policies, it is crucial to begin or continue to educate yourselves in order to find the best healthcare plan for you. What you may not know is that the meaning of “best” could differ per country basis. As a matter of fact, pharmaceutical drugs vary in cost country to country. The International Federation of Health Plans conducted a study in 2015 in order to compare the price placed on drugs and medical procedures in the United States and a variety of other countries (1). An average cost per day in the hospital in the United States, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Spain are (respectively) $5,220, $4,781, $2,142, $765, $631, and $424 (1). As for the cost of a delivery of a child, in the U.S. it was $10,808 compared to Switzerland’s ($7,751), and Australia’s ($5,312) (1). These price ranges are outrageous; it roughly costs twice as much to deliver a child in the U.S. than in Australia and around twice the cost of a hospital stay in the U.S. compared to New Zealand (2). Keep in mind that this study was conducted before the elections and had not been influenced by these changing policies.
As a matter of fact, in the study, the United States topped every chart in price for drugs and procedures. Whether it was demand, advanced procedures, or quality of service, when it is time to care for someone, the cost multiplies by two to five times more than the service should cost when compared internationally (4). A tracking poll by Kaiser Health in 2015 shares that 72% of Americans believe that drug costs are much too high and ask for information on how these prices are determined (3). In CNN’s article, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) explains that the costs are what they are due to the fact that the cost of developing the drugs is high (4). In the same article Dr. Peter B. Bach, Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, says that they increase the prices “because they (PhRMA) can” and explains how that there is no system set in the U.S. to manage drug prices (4).
There are ethical concerns about how much drugs and treatment should cost in the United States. Possibly implementing a board that evaluates and prevents companies from abusing patients may help. Also reviewing the reason why companies have to revert to increasing the prices of pharmaceuticals could discover how tough it is to create a novel compound. All in all, the cost of treatment should be analyzed and there should not be such a disparity between the cost for the same treatment.
1. 2015 Comparative Price Report Variation in Medical and Hospital Prices by Country. 2015. International Federation of Health Plans.
2. Hankin, Aaron. 2016. U.S. Healthcare Costs compared to other countries. Investopedia.com.
3. DiJulio, B., Firth, J., Brodie, M. 2015. Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: August 2015. Kaiser Family Foundation.
4. Kounang, Nadia. 2015. Why Pharmaceuticals are Cheaper Abroad. CNN.com.