"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . medical care . . ."
Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948
No Surprise – U.S. Medical Care Most Expensive In The World, Yet Leaves Millions Without
2013 Survey documents most prescribed drug and medical costs
The International Federation of Health Plans released its 2013 Comparative Price Report – Variation in Medical and Hospital Prices by Country and the United States leads the way with the highest costs anywhere.
The latest report documents drug and medical costs in 25-countries, ranging from most poor to most wealthy. US prices are two to nine times higher than anywhere else. Please click on the graph for the full story.
Some of the key countries participating in the IFHP survey include: Canada, England, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the US. This year’s survey includes pricing for several specialty prescription drugs, along with prices for other prescription drugs and a variety of medical procedures.
Prices for each country are submitted by participating federation member plans, and are drawn from public or commercial sectors.
Here are a couple of examples: Geevec, used to treat cancers including some types of leukemia costs $1,141 in Canada, $3,633 in Switzerland and $6,214 in the US (where prices can run over $11,000). Humira, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, costs $881 in Switzerland and an average of $2,246 in the US (and can be as much as $4,000).
A frequently used diagnostic tool, MRI, costs $138 in Switzerland, $350 in Australia, and an average of $1,145 in the US (and can be as high as $2,900). And a relatively common surgery, appendectomy, costs $4,995 in the Netherlands, $5,177 in Australia and an average of $13,910 in the US (or as high as $29,000 plus).
For more information IFHP, these are insurance companies operating in 25 countries many of whom offer some type of universal coverage, please click here.
If you have a personal story you’d like to share about health care costs that proved to be particularly challenging, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Every story makes a difference in helping to move our state toward affordable, universal health care that covers everyone.
Good news for Healthcare for Everyone in Maine! Our support is growing.
The results are in: Single-payer 64 – Current system 36
On Monday, March 10th the Maine Medical Association (MMA) released the results of their recent survey on their members’ “attitudes and opinions about the directions which reform of our current healthcare system should take...” The crux of the 462 responders’ message was a resoundingYES in support for universal, single-payer coverage of all Mainers.
12-point Increase in Physician Support of Single-payer Health Care in Maine between 2008 and 2014
The survey, a repeat of one completed in 2008, was the product of a resolve introduced by Drs. Petzel, Dillihunt, Maier and Maine AllCare president Pease during the MMA’s annual meeting in October 2013. You can read more about the complete results here, as it appeared in the MMA “Spotlight” feature, online.
Universal, Single Payer Bill Introduced in Maine Legislature
Citizens from around the state gathered in Augusta on January 9th 2014 to testify in person before Insurance and Financial Services committee in support of a publicly funded health care system that would cover everyone in Maine. The proposed bill, LD 1345, will create a single Maine Health Care Fund. The Fund will be managed by an independent Board.
The Board will have total responsibility for the collection and disbursement of all funds related to health care services within our state. This approach will replace the current, complex, for- profit, insurance based system. In effect, the Fund will be a state based Medicare-like system of health care financing, with full accountability.
The business interests behind America’s costly medical care
By Dr. Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
April 17, 2014
The United States spends far more on medical care than other wealthy countries, due mostly to higher prices for health care goods and services. There is a reason for this. In U.S. politics, social progress comes at a high price if it threatens business interests.
In 1965, at the insistence of the American Medical Association, Lyndon B. Johnson agreed to insert language into the Medicare law that prohibited the government from interfering in the practice of medicine, and assuring doctors that they would continue to receive their usual, customary and reasonable fees.
In creating the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003, Congress inserted a provision prohibiting Medicare from negotiating prices for drugs to placate pharmaceutical companies, costing the government billions of dollars.
In 2009, with the Affordable Care Act, the political price paid for expanding access to federally funded health care was coercing young and healthy Americans to buy private health insurance and directing billions of federal dollars to subsidies for private insurance companies. Not satisfied with that, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers insisted on weakening cost controls. Even the modest tax on medical devices and supplies included to help pay for the law is very likely to be repealed, with support from both parties, to mollify medical device manufacturers.
The complexity of the ACA and the poor quality of some of the most popular coverage has created new business opportunities. Accounting firms are now jumping into the fray, offering their services as tax advisers and consultants to help folks navigate their way through the ACA maze. The ongoing shift in the burden of health-care costs from insurance companies to individuals through larger out-of-pocket payments creates new opportunities for banks to offer credit card services for medical debt, often at usurious levels of fees and interest. All of this further raises health-care costs.
Unlike most other wealthy countries, the U.S. lacks any central mechanism to constrain overall health-care spending. This has led us instead to rely on piecemeal, half-hearted and largely ineffective regulation of fees by Medicare, and micromanagement of medical decision-making by private insurers at a level unheard of, and that would not be tolerated in other wealthy countries.
Those attempts at health care cost control have failed.
When government requires individuals and businesses to purchase private health insurance, it must also assure that insurance costs remain affordable, or the law will unravel. The federal government will soon have to abandon its “hands off” approach to restraining the overall costs of medical care. Every country that has moved toward making health care a human right as a matter of public policy has quickly turned its attention to ways to control its overall costs, private as well as public.
We’re already seeing more attention being paid by government, the media, and professional organizations not only to the prices charged by health-care providers, but to ways to restrain the use of unnecessary services and administrative costs, fraud, waste and abuse, and preventing illness in the first place. It should come as no surprise that Medicare data about payments to doctors has recently been released showing some very large payouts, and huge variations across the country. Although this data is incomplete and should be treated cautiously, it raises troubling questions.
The ACA is a work in progress. There is almost universal agreement that it has to be fixed, but plenty of disagreement about how to fix it. The architects of the law anticipated that likelihood. Section 1332 of the ACA provides great latitude for future experimentation by states, beginning in 2017. It allows them to discard most of the ACA’s key requirements if they can come up with something better at no additional cost.
Vermont has already taken a number of important steps toward replacing the ACA with a single-payer system. Such a system would allow them to expand coverage to everybody, reduce total spending, and restrain the growth of future health-care costs to a sustainable level through budgeting.
Earlier this month, the Maine Legislature passed a resolve by a wide bipartisan margin that takes the first step toward following Vermont’s example. The handwriting is on the wall. If the Legislature is unable to effectively deal with this problem, we in Maine can always express ourselves through a ballot initiative.