Grace Survey Reveals Variations in Health Care Costs

Recent surveys have been conducted to determine if the United States leads the global pack in the most expensive health plans, as most current data suggests. In addition to finding major discrepancies in the cost of medical services and medications across international lines, big differences were noted in health care facilities and pharmacies located just down the street from one another.

Since health care costs affect the ability to provide Affordable Health Insurance to the general population, it is worth taking a closer look at these study results.

International Discrepancies

The International Federation of Health Plans, which includes about 100 individual health plans across 30 countries, conducts a country-by-country survey every year of the cost of various medical services. The highlights of the IFHP's most recent survey results were recently reported in the Wall Street Journal.

According to this publication, the average cost of an MRI scan in the United States was $1,009, compared to $874 in Switzerland, the second-most expensive country on the list. This price reflects the amount charged to individual health insurance companies, rather than the charge to patients. If you have comprehensive, affordable medical insurance, your cost for an MRI might actually be much less.

By the same token, cataract surgery in the United States averages about $14,764, while it only costs $5,626 in Chile and a mere $351 in Argentina! Prescription drugs also tended to be more costly in this country. For example, Nexium has an average price tag of around $186 here, compared to $136 in Germany and just $3 in France. The amount paid on prescription drugs also varies by individual health plan, with some people enjoying much more affordable health insurance than others.

Discrepancies Across the Country

In addition to the large discrepancies seen between countries, the IFHP study also found dramatic price ranges throughout the United States. While the average cost for an MRI was $1,009 in this country, the price ranged from just over $500 to more than $2,500, depending on where the procedure was performed. Cataract surgery within the United States ranged from nearly $6,000 to more than $35,000.

When you combine these differences with the varying individual health plans available today, you can see why some people end up with very affordable health insurance and others can barely pay their medical bills.

The data collected in this study is particularly significant for those enrolled in high-deductible individual health plans that come with a health savings account to help members shoulder more of their own medical costs. Since these affordable health plans are becoming more popular today, more consumers may shop around for the best prices on medical services. By saving money on health care overall, these individuals will also require less money from their HSAs to cover the deductibles included on their individual health plans.

To help comparison shoppers, another study titled, "Change: Healthcare's Healthcare Transparency Index," is designed to help consumers find the lowest price on medical services. This study takes data from more than 1.3 million medical claims to help identify the best pricing for individual health plans.

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