Why America Has a $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill

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Health-Expenditures

According to a recent article in the New York Times, getting a colonoscopy in the US is getting more and more expensive. In one case, the patient in Merrick, NY had a routine procedure done and no cancer was found, with no need for follow up treatment. The price? $6385.

In another case in New Hampshire, the patient’s bill was $7563. And another case in New York was $9142. In a colonoscopy case in North Carolina that required the removal of polyps, the cost was $19,400. In her case, the patient did not have to pay anything out of pocket, but her premiums then went up 10%. The higher premiums, co-payments and deductibles are straining her finances, and this is becoming more and more common in America.

In many countries, getting a colonoscopy costs under $1000 and sometimes is only $200 or so. The huge disparity in prices shows that the US is the leader in the world in what it spends on medical care, even if many studies show that most Americans are not receiving better care.

Whether they pay out of pocket or through insurance, most Americans pay more for their medical care than what people do in other countries. They are usually prescribed pricier procedures and tests than people who live abroad, whether those countries have private or national health care. According to a new list of drug, procedure and scan prices by a global network of health insurance companies, the US is the most expensive for all 21 categories.

For example, patients in the US pay 4x as much for a major joint replacement, such as a hip, when compared to France or Switzerland. The price for Nasonex, which is a nasal spray for allergies, is $109 here and $21 in Spain. The cost for staying in a hospital in the US is about three times what it is in many developed nations.

The US is well known for high quality but expensive drugs in its health care and extreme measures taken at the end of life. But, what ends up making the US health care system more expensive is that people just pay a higher price for regular services.

Colonoscopies are a good example of the high prices in the US. This is the priciest screening test that Americans who are healthy usually pay for. They often are more expensive than an appendectomy in many other countries. More than 10 million people in the US get colonoscopies each year, which costs more than $10 billion per year.

Colonoscopies used to be an office procedure but now they are usually done in surgical centers, which costs more money. Sometimes colonoscopies are done more often than many medical guidelines recommend

It seems that the higher price for this procedure is not always because a patient is getting better care, but because of medical facility business plans that want to make as much money as they can.

There are other cheaper tests that can screen for colon cancer that are just as effective. They are used often in other countries but the colonoscopy is used the most in the US. The country is defaulting to the most expensive procedure and there is not a great deal of data to support the idea.

Many medical facilities benefit financially from charging higher prices and doing the most expensive treatment options.

Right now, the US spends almost 20% of GDP on health care, which is double of other countries. It is true that the increase in health care costs has slowed in the US, but it is still going to rise quicker than GDP.

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