Report: U.S. Prescription and Hospital Costs Continue to Outpace Those of Other Countries

Average cost of U.S. hospital stay is $5,220 per day

Drug and hospital prices in the United States are consistently higher than those in other countries, according to a report from the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP). The IFHP is a global network of health insurance companies, with 80 members in 25 countries.

For its 2015 survey, the group gathered prices from participating countries’ plans and from public or commercial sectors, as follows:

  • Prices for the United States were derived from more than 370 million medical claims and more than 170 million pharmacy claims that reflected prices negotiated and paid to health care providers.
  • Prices for Australia, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom were obtained from the private sector, with data provided by one private health plan in each country.

The values reported were estimates of 2014 prices based on 2014 claims.

Here’s how the average prices of a 30-day supply of certain medications compared between the U.S. and other countries:

  • The blood thinner Xarelto cost up to $292 in the U.S. but only $48 in South Africa.
  • Similarly, the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira cost $2,669 in the U.S.; the closest price overseas was $1,362 in the U.K. The price in South Africa was $552.
  • The hepatitis C drug Harvoni cost $32,114 in the U.S., twice the $16,861 in Switzerland.
  • The multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidara cost $5,089 in the U.S., compared with $663 in the U.K.

The painkiller OxyContin, however, was less expensive in the U.S. than in the U.K., where a 30-day supply cost $590, compared with $265 stateside.

Three of five common diagnostic tests were also more expensive in the U.K. than in the U.S. Angiograms cost $2,149 versus $1,164, respectively; abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans cost $860 versus $844; and colonoscopies cost $3,059 versus $1,301. Patients in the U.S., however, paid more than those in the U.K. for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans ($1,119 vs. $788, respectively) and for cardiac catheterizations ($5,061 vs. $4,046).

The average hospital cost per day was $5,220 in the U.S., compared with $4,781 in Switzerland, $765 in Australia, $631 in South Africa, and $424 in Spain.

The total pooled hospital and physician costs in the U.S. also far outpaced the pooled costs in other countries for each of eight common surgical procedures. For example, in the U.S., a hip replacement costs $29,067 compared with $6,757 in Spain. Similarly, a cesarean section costs $16,601 in the U.S. compared with $2,192 in South Africa.

Sources: IFHP; 2016; and FierceHealthcare; July 20, 2016.