U.S. residents pay more for most medical procedures and services than residents in other countries, according to a report released on Friday by the International Federation of Health Plans, the Washington Post reports (Klein, Washington Post, 3/2).
For the report, IFHP surveyed providers to assess spending for medical procedures, tests and treatments in Argentina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, India, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S. (Fox, National Journal, 3/4).
It found that U.S. residents paid more for 22 of the 23 services and products included in the survey than residents in the eight other countries (Washington Post, 3/2). For example, the survey found that, on average, hospital stays cost $1,825 in Spain and $5,004 in Germany, compared with $15,734 in the U.S. In addition, the survey found that routine doctor's office visits cost:
- $9 in Argentina;
- $11 in Spain;
- $16 in India;
- $23 in France;
- $30 in Canada;
- $40 in Germany;
- $45 in Chile;
- $64 in Switzerland; and
- $89 in the U.S.
Similarly, the survey found that the total cost of giving birth in the U.S. averages $9,280 per birth, compared with $1,291 in Argentina and $1,967 in Spain. Meanwhile, the prescription drug Nexium averaged $193 in the U.S., compared with $69 in Switzerland.
Cataract surgery was the only procedure or service included in the survey that was less costly in the U.S. than in another country. The surgery costs an average of $5,310 in Switzerland, compared with $3,748 in the U.S.
Overall, the study found that health spending as a percentage of GDP is 17.4% in the U.S., compared with 9.5% in Spain and 11.8% in France.
According to National Journal, the findings support health care experts' assertions that soaring U.S. health costs are caused in large part by prices charged by drugmakers, hospitals, medical device makers and physicians (National Journal, 3/4).
GAO: Cost Effect of Generic Drugs Remains Unclear
The effect of generic drug spending on overall health care costs remains unclear, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Thursday, MedPage Today.
The report found that U.S. prescription drug spending has more than tripled since 2001, reaching $307 billion in 2010 and accounting for 12% of U.S. health care costs. That cost growth slowed in the early 2000s as more major generic drugs -- which cost on average 75% less than their brand name equivalent -- reached the market. By 2010, genetic drugs were used in place of brand name drugs 93% of the time.
However, the report found that studies on cost savings from generic drugs produced "mixed results regarding the effect of using these generics, in that some found they raised health care costs, while others found they led to cost savings" (Walker, MedPage Today, 3/2).