By Mark Wachtler
October 13, 2014. New York. (ONN) For decades, Americans have been forced to pay exponentially more for medical attention and prescription drugs than the rest of the world. Washington and Wall Street insist somebody has to pay for research, development and hundreds of billions of dollars in profits for corporate shareholders and executives. Today, the overcharging has gotten so blatant and out of control, the American people are literally being price gouged to death.
The darker the country, the higher the price of healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Image courtesy of Vox.com.
Comparing healthcare costs
A recent report from Vox.com compared the healthcare costs that citizens of the world’s industrialized countries pay. Using the pay charts from France’s largest HMO provider, the cost calculator shows what the insurance company is charged by doctors, hospitals and pharmacies in all the countries it operates in. Looking at the cost patients must pay for the exact same drug or procedure from country to country reveals the extent to which the American people are being ripped off by the world’s healthcare and pharmaceutical corporations.
‘Healthcare cost is a somewhat ambiguous concept, but an insurance company that needs to pay for treatments all around the world needs to reduce it to a concrete index,’ the report’s authors explain, ‘That's what French HMOs MGEN and LMDE have done. It shows how much the company needs to be prepared to pay out to treat one of its patients if they need treatment abroad.’
Even the report’s authors can’t contain their anger and frustration over the universal price gouging of Americans. ‘You can see here that poorer countries are broadly cheaper than richer ones, which makes sense because labor input costs are lower,’ the outlet writes, ‘But you also see that the United States is off-the-charts expensive compared to places like Canada, Germany, Sweden, Korea or the Netherlands. Americans are simply paying very high prices for health care compared to what residents of other rich countries pay. These charts break it down in more detail, and they'll make your blood boil.’
By the numbers
The analysis compiled by France’s largest HMOs and Vox.com compare more than a dozen drugs and medical procedures in a handful of Western countries. These are the exact same pills and operations, often performed or manufactured by the exact same people and corporations. The only difference is the cost people are forced to pay from country to country.
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Nexium ‘the little purple pill’ - Nexium is the second-best selling prescription drug in the United States. It’s made by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish biopharma corporation that rakes in roughly $8 billion in profits per year. Here’s what citizens of varying countries are charged for the exact same prescription:
The report states, ‘If the United States paid what the Netherlands paid for Nexium, we would have spent $663 million on the drug in 2013 rather than $6.2 billion. There's nothing different about the Nexium that we buy in the United States and the pill that the Dutch buy - except that, in the United States, we're terrible at negotiating a good deal on pretty much any medical service.’
Hospital room - The next standard healthcare cost that virtually every human being on Earth will have to pay at some point is the price of a one-day in-patient hospital stay. Once again, the American people are paying exponentially more than the rest of the world for a one-day hospital room:
Child birth - The authors took a look at another healthcare cost almost none of us will escape - child birth. Below are the prices people around the world pay for the delivery of a child:
(natural child birth)
Hip replacement - Americans close to their golden years may want to take a look at the cost of a hip replacement in various Western countries:
CT scan - The next item the researchers compared was another common medical test patients are given in hospitals around the world - CT scan. Theoretically, every hospital regardless of the country has to pay a similar price to purchase a CT scanner. It’s a competitive industry so the out-of-pocket costs for healthcare providers is fairly equal from country to country. But the cost hospitals and doctors charge the citizens of their respective countries is anything but fair and equal. The average cost of a CT scan by country:
MRI scan - Another common healthcare test is the MRI scan. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and just like CT scans, the cost of an MRI varies drastically from country to country:
Appendectomy - Suppose your appendix is about to burst and if it’s not immediately removed you’ll die. Below is the average cost of a life-saving appendectomy from country to country:
Humira (arthritis medication) - Humira is a prescription drug manufactured by US-based Abbott Laboratories. It’s also used to treat varying abdominal disorders. Being manufactured in the US, one would think the American people could buy it cheaper than anyone simply because shipping costs are cut out of the price. Actually, they could. But then Abbott Labs wouldn’t be able to make $1.5 - $2 billion in profits each year. Here is the average cost of the exact same Humira prescription in various countries:
Gleevec (leukemia drug) - Imagine your child is diagnosed with cancer, say leukemia, and you need to buy a prescription of Gleevec to have a chance of saving their life. Gleevec is manufactured by Novartis, a pharmaceutical corporation located in Switzerland that made $9 billion in profits last year. Here is the average cost of Gleevec from country to country:
Copaxone (multiple sclerosis drug) - Now imagine your child is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and you need to buy the prescription drug Copaxone. Copaxone is manufactured by Teva Pharma in Israel, a division of US-based Teva Neuroscience. The average cost of the exact same MS drug Copaxone from country to country:
Heart bypass surgery - Imagine you have a mild heart attack and the doctor tells you that you need heart bypass surgery. Here is the average cost depending on what country you live in:
Perhaps the most eye-opening statistic is actually the result of the above price gouging by the world’s healthcare and pharmaceutical corporations - healthcare rationing. The American people don’t realize that due to the astronomical cost of healthcare in the US, citizens are forced to self-ration medical services and needed drug prescriptions.
In Japan, citizens can afford to go to an average of 13.1 doctors appointments per year. In Germany, that number is 9.7 times per year. Canadians see their doctor 7.4 times a year. In England, it’s 5 times per year. But in the United States, Americans can only afford to see their doctor an average of 4.1 times per year. That may explain why for the first time in history, Americans have one of the lowest life expectancies in the Western world.
Check out the full report from Vox.com.