In a Reddit post gone viral, a man explained that he went to the hospital for an appendicitis, and ended up with a $55,000 hospital bill.
Aside from the fact that the bill itself is astronomical relative to the service provided, there’s another reason why it stands out.
The Reddit user’s bill highlights the huge discrepancy between medical costs in the United States and other countries, and appendectomies are just the tip of the iceberg.
Have a look:
The original cost was over $55,000. Fortunately, the 20 year-old man was still on his father’s insurance, thus the cost was lowered to $11,000.
Which is still an obscenely high bill to pay for such a young man. He was in the Recovery Room for 2 hours and it cost him $7,500.
The actual surgery cost $16,000.
Appendectomies Around The World
In fairness, the $55,000 appendectomy was not reflective of the average cost for such surgery in the United States. Depending on geographic location, specific services needed, type of hospital, and other factors, the price can fluctuate. However, compared to other countries, the United States still ranks the highest overall , according to the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP). The IFHP releases data annually that compares the cost of specific services from country to country.
Since the United States’ private medical industry does not set their rates centrally, like most countries do, the IFHP lists average ranges for each of our services. In the case of an appendectomy, the range of cost was between $8,156 and $29,426 in 2012.
Certainly not as high as the Reddit user’s $55,000 bill, but even the low end of the range is higher than other countries measured. On IFHP’s 2012 scale, Australia came in second to the U.S. at $5,467, while Argentina came in with the lowest figure, at just $953. Other notable figures included Spain ($2,245), the United Kingdom ($3,408), and Switzerland ($4,782).
Here’s what citizens from other countries had to say about their own experiences.
An Australian with appendicitis never even saw a bill.
A Canadian’s mother had foot surgery and her only charge was $60…for cable.
A Malaysian paid the equivalent of $25 for an appendectomy.
Of course, appendectomies aren’t the only medical service where the United States ranks the highest in terms of cost. Here are a few more notable comparisons from 2012:
Why Do We Pay So Much?
Whether the cost is paid from our own pocket, the insurance company, or a combination of both, sticker shock in the doctor’s office can prevent us from wanting to return. But, why are our rates so much higher than those in other countries? In a respected and often quoted 2003 study on the matter, the authors concluded that even though the United States spends more money on healthcare services than other countries, we don’t get any more out of the services than the other countries do .
While there are a handful of reasons for the huge disparity in pricing, one of the key reasons is price setting strategies. For example, in some countries, including the United Kingdom, the government sets the prices . That doesn’t happen in the United States’ private medical sector. The result? Bypass surgery in the United States cost between $46,547 and $150,515 on average in 2012. In the United Kingdom, the rate was $14,117.
In other countries, including Germany, the insurers and providers come to an agreement on pricing. If they are unable to agree, the government steps in. The result of that arrangement? The cost of an angiogram in the United States exceeds $800, but in Germany it’s less than half that amount.
The for-profit medical industry in the United States is different than that of Medicaid and Medicare, where the government negotiates prices. So, that side of the medical industry is similar to other countries that control costs. In private industry, however, medical service providers charge essentially what they can get away with charging. Unfortunately, because of the need for medical service, some of which is urgent, United States consumers can’t very easily say no.