U.S. Health Costs Take First Place in Price

The United States pays significantly more for every category of basic health care services when compared to any other first-world country, according to a report by the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP), a group of more than 100 member health insurance companies representing 25 countries. The report examined the price of medical procedures, tests, scans and treatments in 12 countries, as well as the costs of six widely-prescribed drugs. Various types of health care plans were represented, revealing that the United States continues to have the highest prices of those countries surveyed for both medical procedures and drugs.

Average Prices

The report provided a basic glimpse into health care spending. For example, when comparing the average cost for a hospital day, the cost varied from $429 in Argentina, $665 in South Africa and an average of $4,287 in the U.S. An office visit could range from $10 in Argentina to an average of $95 in the U.S. New to the study this year was the cost for a colonoscopy, which ranges from $413 in Argentina to $893 in the United Kingdom and $1,185 in the United States. The survey also found that the cost of a widely prescribed drug for depression, Cymbalta, can range from $47 in the France to $176 in the U.S. One of the biggest cost differences was for caesarian sections, ranging from $1,541 in Argentina to an average of $15,041 in the United States. When looking at health care spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, the range went from 8 percent in Chile to 10.1 percent in New Zealand, to 17.6 percent in the United States.


Health care prices for Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were paid from the public sector with data provided from one health plan in each country, while prices for Australia, Chile, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa were from the private sector and the data used represents prices paid by one private health plan in each country. Prices for France and Argentina were a blend of public and private sectors with the data provided by one health plan in each country. Prices used from the United States were calculated from a database of more than 100 million paid claims that reflect prices negotiated between thousands of providers and almost 100 hundred health plans.