Heard an interesting thing on the radio the other day about the comparison of health care cost in the United Sates versus that of other places world that are also considered tier one countries. I knew the results would show higher cost in our grand country, but I did not realize until this piece was done just how much difference it was. I apologize in advance for forgetting the details, but I recall it was on NPR and the lady presenting the facts was doing a year-long “Health Care Cost” piece for one of the major daily papers.
The key part of this interview was in regards to a man who need a knee (or perhaps it was a hip) replacement. For whatever reason, his current insurance considered the need for a replacement a pre-existing condition (this in itself is an issue that I feel is wrong with insurance personally, but it one of the stupid rules we have with health insurance in the country) and refused to cover the needed joint replacement. He did diligence and starting pricing it out. Typical quotes were in the $170,000 to cover the hospital stay, surgery, recovery, and the short physical therapy care afterward. Now, my understanding from the person being interviewed was that means actual out-of-pocket costs would have run closer to $130,000.
The man needing such operation could not afford this out-of-pocket and did some additional research. He went to some of the four companies that make the joint to see if buying direct would cut the cost and he could get the surgery ala carte so speak. Cost for the joint was still in the $13,000 dollar range alone, without any surgery.
Next up, he for some reason priced the same surgery in either Denmark or Norway with the same basic options. Cover the joint itself, surgery, the same physical therapy after care, and throwing in round trip air fare, his total out-of-pocket expense was going to be $13,000. That was for an out country person, not covered by the social medicine system the country had in place.
Why? Well, I am not normally one to agree with government limits on what things can cost and such. But as an example here, the joint he eventually got in Nordic Europe was made by one of the four companies based here in the US. That country has an upper limit of what the company can charge and subsequently what the hospital can mark it up by – clearly controlling the price to a much cheaper price point.
Additionally, in the US everything in the hospital was nickel and dimed to get the total amount. In other words, surgeon has a fee, nurses have a fee, surgery room has a fee, recovery room has a fee, etc. In the Nordic country, the idea of having a surgery without the surgery room or recovery room seems idiotic and was all one bundled bill.
Take this one other quick example that was mentioned. A couple finds themselves pregnant and pursue what it will cost them to birth the baby without insurance. They are given quotes from around $7,000 to $45,000 at various hospitals in the New England region of the US. Compare that to the $4,500 most European countries would charge, but pretty much the only people who pay that are visitors to the country. Most of Europe considers having a birth a right of its citizens and indeed important for the country to have people to carry on in the future and while the charge is there it is almost always waived.
I fear, that wherever you stand in regards to Obamcare, it is going to very little to actually reduce the medical costs of things here in the US. Having seen these cost, makes me wonder what my MS medication would cost in Europe compared to here in the US.
** – Image from hip-knee-replacement.com.