In response to a New York Times report showing the cost differences of hospital care, outpatient procedures, and prescription drugs in the United States compared to other countries, Sen. Bernie Sanders doubled his argument for setting up a universal single-payer healthcare system Friday.
“Some major countries are protecting all their people and paying half of what we’re doing. Don’t tell me we can’t afford Medicare for All,” tweeted Sanders (I-Vt.), a contender for the 2020 presidential nomination of the Democratic Party seeking to introduce a single-payer system.
Sanders linked to the Times report, featuring graphs showing prices around the world for common medical services. The Times uses 2017 data from a study released this month by the International Health Plans Association, a group representing health insurance chief executives.
“The upshot is clear and consistent every time: there’s a major difference between the U.S. and everyone else for almost everything on the list,” reports the newspaper.
The Times provides specific examples of cost differences, some of which Sanders posted on Twitter: the survey finds an average U.S. price of $32,200 for a standard angioplasty, a procedure that opens a blocked blood vessel to the heart, compared to $6,400 in the Netherlands, or $7,400 in Switzerland. A standard MRI scan in the United States costs $1,420, but in Britain, it costs only $450. Herceptin injection, a common treatment for breast cancer, costs $211 in the U.S., compared to $44 in South Africa. There are no outliers to these cases.
There are so few cases where the U.S. level is not the highest they’re jumping out. In New Zealand, cataract surgery costs more; in the United Arab Emirates, Kalydeco, a new cystic fibrosis drug, costs more. Yet for most of the cases analyzed, in other developed countries, prices for utilities and medications are less than half those in the United States.
“It’s shocking how much more costly the United States is,” said John Hargraves, Health Care Cost Institute’s Data Strategy Manager, a company that aggregates claims from several major American insurance companies and provided the U.S. data to the report.
“For the United States, higher prices are not new,” the Times explains, “but they have become newly sound, as more health insurance comes with high premiums and other forms of cost-sharing that involve patients to pay more of the bill or even the full cost of their care.”