Convert Obamacare to ObamaAir: U.S. Healthcare Much More Expensive than Overseas


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — We've wasted all this time and money trying to save the American healthcare system when the answer is so much simpler: international medical tourism. Perhaps Obamacare should convert to ObamaAir and subsidize global travel for medical procedures and prescriptions. Once again, the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP) has surveyed global healthcare costs and finds that the United States continues to have the highest fees for drugs and various medical procedures among surveyed countries.

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Comparing costs from a database with over 100 million claims, reflecting prices negotiated and paid between thousands of providers and for almost a hundred commercial health plans, the IFHP report shows American healthcare is more expensive – but not necessarily better.

It begins with the cost of medicine. The average prices in the U.S. for eight prescription drugs included in the survey were all higher – in some cases extremely higher – than in the other countries included in the study. For example, Celebrex, a medication commonly prescribed for pain, has an average cost of $225 in the U.S., compared to $112 in England -- and just $51 in Canada. Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands all offered lower prices for the medication than in the U.S.

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Nexium, commonly prescribed for acid reflux, has an average cost of $215 in the U.S., while in the Netherlands, England, Spain and Switzerland, the same medication has an average price ranging from $23 to $60.

And hospital stays are even less of a value. According to the IFHP, the average cost for a one-day hospital stay in the U.S. is $4,293. In Spain, it's $481.

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"First, it gives the lie to the idea that some countries spend more on health as a result of higher utilization. It is all about unit price," says IFHP's chief executive Tom Sackville. "Second, we have looked here at a number of procedures and products which are identical across the markets surveyed. The price variations bear no relation to health outcomes: they merely demonstrate the relative ability of providers to profiteer at the expense of patients, and in some cases reflect a damaging degree of market failure."

Average costs for selected procedures included:

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Total Hospital and Physician: Bypass Surgery

  • U.S. $75,345
  • Australia $42,130
  • New Zealand $40,368
  • Switzerland $36,509
  • Argentina $$16,492
  • Spain $16,247
  • Netherland $15,742

Total Hospital and Physician: Hip Replacement

  • U.S. $26,489
  • Australia $26,297
  • Switzerland $19,722
  • New Zealand $19,011
  • Netherlands $11,513
  • Spain $8,010
  • Argentina $6,862

Total Hospital and Physician: Baby Delivery

  • U.S. $10,002
  • Switzerland $8,307
  • Australia $6,623
  • Netherlands $2,824
  • Spain $2,251
  • Argentina $2,237

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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