A $9 doctor's visit? Report charts how U.S. cost of care compares

U.S. residents paid more for 22 of 23 medical services surveyed

A report released Friday by the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHB) captures just how much more U.S. residents pay for certain health services than residents of other nations.

In its surveys of providers in nine developed countries, IFHB found that U.S. residents paid the most for 22 of the 23 services and products included in the survey. For example, a hospital stay cost only $1,825 in Spain and $5,004 in Germany, compared to $15,734 in the U.S.

In addition, the survey found that a routine doctor's office visit cost:

  • $9 in Argentina;
  • $11 in Spain;
  • $16 in India;
  • $23 in France;
  • $30 in Canada;
  • $40 in Germany;
  • $45 in Chile;
  • $64 in Switzerland; and
  • $89 in the U.S.

Similarly, the survey found that the total cost of giving birth in the U.S. average $9,280 per birth, compared to just $1,291 in Argentina and $1,967 in Spain. Meanwhile, the prescription drug Nexium averaged $193 in the U.S., compared to $69 in Switzerland.

Only one procedure of the 23 included in the survey was less expensive in the U.S. than in another country. Cataract surgery in Switzerland averages $5,310, compared to just $3,748 in the U.S.

Overall, the study found that health spending as a percentage of GDP was 17.4% in the U.S., compared to 9.5% in Spain and 11.8% in France.

According to National Journal, the findings support health care experts' assertions that soaring U.S. health costs are caused in large part by prices charged by physicians, hospitals and drug and device manufacturers (Fox, National Journal, 3/4; Klein, Washington Post, 3/2).

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