At Vox, Sarah Kliff collects fifteen charts showing that we pay far more for health care than other countries. Click through to see the disparities, many of which are quite striking. For example, arthritis drug Humira costs $881 dollars in Switzerland, but $2,246 in America. Kliff chalks these differences up to America’s insurance system, and the fact that we don’t have one central body that negotiates prices with Big Pharma. Instead in our multi-payer system every insurance company negotiates separately.By phrasing the problem in this way, Kliff is aiming at a particular solution: rate control and the single payer pivot. But there are a number of more organic reforms closer to home that would alleviate the high prices she highlights. Doctors, for example, often prescribe expensive drugs even though cheaper generic alternatives exist. But according to this NYT piece, that’s changing—and not a moment too soon:
Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care […]The society of oncologists, alarmed by the escalating prices of cancer medicines, is developing a scorecard to evaluate drugs based on their cost and value, as well as their efficacy and side effects. It is expected to be ready by this fall.And the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recently announced that they would begin to use cost data to rate the value of treatments in their joint clinical practice guidelines and performance standards.
For our system to really work well, consumers ultimately need to be empowered. We should be working towards a place where price sensitive patients have the information and motivation to demand better cost-quality matchup than what they are currently getting. In the meantime, however, doctors working to minimize the amount they charge patients is a good step.