The United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the developed world. Back in 2018, the average annual cost per person was $11,100. Compared to other developed nations (especially those in Europe), this number is incredibly high. Even among other expensive nations, the US still ranks as the most expensive.
For example, the average cost per person in Norway (another one of the most expensive countries) is just over $6,000 per year (i.e. nearly half of what US citizens pay). But why is the US so expensive? Are there any benefits to these dramatically higher costs? Below we delve into some of the main reasons why health services in the USA are so expensive, as well as some of the benefits (and negatives) of the US healthcare system.
Healthcare Costs in the US
Healthcare in the US is expensive, this is known worldwide. Compared to other Western nations, the US isn’t even in the same ballpark as far as affordability goes. But why is it so expensive? Well, there are many factors that account for the US’s high cost of healthcare, the most important of which are listed below:
- Administration – According to most industry experts, the costs of operation involved in running a hospital, clinic, etc. is one of the top reasons why healthcare is so expensive. The costs that US-based medical facilities pay to operate are much higher than those in other countries (with similar GDPs).
- Expensive Medications/Treatments – One of the other most important factors in determining the cost of healthcare in the US is just how much drugs and other treatments cost. Most other countries develop special agreements with drug manufacturers which allow for lowered prices. The US does not do this (only with the VA and Medicaid does it negotiate for lowered prices).
There are several other reasons why the US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world. One of them is the fact that doctors and other medical professionals practice something known as “defensive medicine.”
Because the US has such lax lawsuit laws/regulations, doctors are extra careful in regards to protecting themselves from malpractice lawsuits. This means ordering more tests, labs, etc. for patients (even if they 100% already know the patient’s diagnosis).
Most of these reasons come down to the government not having as much control over the healthcare industry (compared to other countries). This lack of negotiation between healthcare providers/vendors and the government translates to higher costs (due to the presence of competition between private healthcare companies).
Benefits of the US Healthcare System
While getting medical treatment in the US can be costly, there are certain benefits that come with the increased cost. The main benefit to the US healthcare system is that it’s considered the best in the world.
No other system has the quality of service providers as the US. There’s a reason why doctors from all over the world want to work in the US; it’s because it has the best quality technology, treatments, and services for patients.
The US has one of the most innovative and forward-thinking medical communities in the entire world (mainly due to its vast system of public research universities). The quality of technology, treatments, and medications combine to equal one of the highest quality (but expensive) healthcare systems among all developed nations.
Negatives of the US Healthcare System
Healthcare in the US is known for its exceptional level of service and treatment(s), but there are also some negatives to the system as well. We’ve already gone over just how expensive it is to receive healthcare here (i.e. it’s the most expensive healthcare system anywhere in the world), but what about other negatives?
One of the biggest negative aspects of the US healthcare system is the fact that it’s not universal (i.e. free). Many other developed countries offer entirely free healthcare services to their citizens. While these citizens might pay some extra taxes, they still aren’t paying as much as US citizens for private healthcare (on an annual basis).
There are two sides to every story, and the same rings true for the US healthcare system. Is it expensive? Yes, but it also has the best healthcare providers/treatments in the entire world.
While many people think that the system is due for an entire overhaul, it most likely won’t be getting one anytime soon. The private healthcare industry is far too profitable for major changes to go into effect overnight.