Why Is Healthcare So Expensive?

Why is healthcare so expensive is something that we often find ourselves asking. Continue reading the article to find the answer to this important question.

Why is healthcare so expensive? The cost of medical care is the single greatest factor behind U.S. healthcare costs, representing 90% of expenditure. These uses mirror the expense of really focusing on those with constant or long haul medical conditions, a growing populace, and the increased expense of new drugs, methods, and treatments. The pressure on our rambling healthcare framework in the U.S. has never been more prominent. There is a pressing need to develop testing and treatment for COVID-19 for all inhabitants who need it, paying little heed to health care coverage status. Huge government cash floods have looked to support hospitals listing under the heaviness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the connected end of elective surgery and standard medical care.

Why is healthcare so expensive?

The huge healthcare expenses have an impact on everyone, sick or healthy. It has decreased the spending capacity and power of individuals for the past few decades. Income for American workers has risen, but net pay has stayed the same due to increasing costs for health insurance. In the current times, tightening up on overspending is important to help stretch clinical and hospital resources to control COVID-19. Here are some basic reasons why healthcare is so expensive in the U.S.

1. Multiple Systems Create Waste

Administrative costs are often cited as a reason for huge medical expenditure. Approximately 8% of the United States healthcare dollar is spent on administrative costs, compared to that in other countries, where it is approximately 1% to 3% (according to a report by JAMA).

The U.S. healthcare system is very intricate, with discrete principles, subsidizing, enrollment dates, and out-of-pocket expenses for business-based protection, private insurance from healthcare.gov, Medicaid, and Medicare, in the entirety of its numerous pieces. In each of these areas, shoppers should pick from a few levels of inclusion, high deductible plans, managed care plans (HMOs and PPOs), and expense for administration frameworks. These plans could possibly incorporate drug protection with its own inclusion levels, deductibles, and co-pays or coinsurance. For suppliers, this implies managing myriad regulations about use, coding, and billing. Also, truth be told, these exercises make up the biggest portion of administrative costs.

2. Drug Costs Are Rising

On average, Americans shell out around four times the amount for pharmaceutical drugs as opposed to residents of other industrialized nations pay. High medication costs are the single greatest element of overspending in the U.S. as compared to Europe, where the cost of medication is federally managed, frequently dependent on the clinical benefit of the prescription. With limited regulation of these costs, the U.S. spends an average of $1,443 per individual, contrasted with the $749 average, spent by the other prosperous countries. In the United States, private insurers can arrange drug costs with manufacturers, regularly through the services of pharmacy benefit administrators. In any case, Medicare, which pays for a huge percentage of the national medication costs, is not allowed to arrange costs with producers.

3. Doctors (and Nurses) Are Paid More

In the U.S. the average family doctor makes around $218,173 a year, and specialists earn around $316,000 which is substantially more than the average in other industrialized countries. American nurses also earn a lot more than anywhere else in the world. The average income for a nurse from the U.S. is about $74,250, as compared to $58,041 in Switzerland and $60,253 in the Netherlands. The U.S. managed care plans (HMOs and PPOs) might be successful in reducing healthcare expenses by requiring prior authorization for seeing a high-priced specialist. The use of a nurse practitioner rather than a family doctor can also save money. The cost of a hospital birth in the U.S. is $11,170, which is $7,000 more than the cost in the Netherlands.

4. Hospitals Are Profit Centers

Hospital care represents 33% of the country’s healthcare costs. As indicated by a recent report in Health Affairs., between 2007 and 2014, costs for inpatient and outpatient hospital care rose a lot faster than costs for a doctor. In the U.S. costs for surgeries in hospitals significantly surpass those of other nations. For instance, common angioplasty to open an obstructed blood vessel, costs $6,390 in the Netherlands, $7,370 in Switzerland, and $32,230 in the United States. Essentially, a heart bypass operation in the U.S. costs $78,100 as compared to the $32,010 in Switzerland. Today, numerous hospitals are on the edge monetarily. Furthermore, the suspension of elective surgery and seriously declining supplier visits due to the COVID-19 lockdown represent a major part of the decrease in the general economy.

5. U.S. Healthcare Practices Defensive Medicine

Both physicians and hospitals have an interest in preventing lawsuits, so “just in case” tests and scans may be ordered. And these tests can be costly! While a CT scan costs just $97 in Canada and $500 in Australia, the average cost is $896 in the U.S. A typical MRI scan costs $1,420 in the United States, but around $450 in Britain. Researchers have concluded that it’s not the sheer number of tests and procedures but their high price that explains why it’s so expensive to be sick in the U.S.

6. U.S. Prices Vary Wildly

Due to the complexity of the system and the absence of any set costs for clinical services, providers are free to charge what the market can bear. The amount paid for the same healthcare service can differ greatly based on the payer (which is private insurance or government programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid) and geographical area. For instance, for COVID-19, the cost of an emergency care visit and lab tests is an average of $1,696 but can range from a minimum of $241 to a maximum of $4,510 based on the provider.

7. Administrative Costs

As indicated by David Cutler — a health economist from Harvard — states in an interview that administrative expenses inside the U.S. healthcare industry are one of the main reasons behind high medical coverage costs. In his own words, “About one-quarter of health care costs are associated with administration, which is far higher than in any other country”. Contrast this with around 10 to 15 percent of the next highest nations, and you can see exactly how over the top the U.S. healthcare industry can be as far as administrative costs are concerned. One reason why the U.S. devotes such countless assets to administration in the healthcare circle is on the grounds that, they are sorting out some way to bill various insurers for various systems, sorting out some way to gather cash from individuals, etc. As such, on the grounds that the system is still genuinely complicated, healthcare companies need to invest a ton of energy and carrying out their administrative responsibilities.

8. The United States Spends More on Healthcare

The United States spends way more cash on healthcare, which winds up driving the expense to a considerable sum. That may sound somewhat confusing, so let us break it down to better understand it. The undeniable contender to talk about is medication. The cost of medicines and prescription drugs has been at the front line of conversations with regards to healthcare here in the States. In the U.S., branded drugs cost substantially more than in other nations. Since revenue-driven organizations are so vigorously engaged with the United States healthcare system, it has a gradually expanding influence down to the patients who need prescription medications or other clinical products. Doctors likewise earn more for doing the same thing in the U.S. than they do in other nations, and a ton of providers charge more for things like sturdy clinical hardware in the U.S. than in other countries. So, when providers charge more for their equipment, hospitals need to charge more for their services, and the end customer (patients) winds up paying more.

9. Technological Advancements Are Expensive

Progressions in technology happen each day across all businesses. Yet, none of them have a substantial effect on the cost of an item or administration than the tech progressions in the healthcare business. As indicated by the Hastings Center, healthcare economists estimate that 40 to 50 percent of yearly cost increments can be traced to either new innovations or the increased utilization of old ones.

Robert Graboyes — a healthcare researcher at George Mason University — summarizes technology’s impact on the healthcare business. According to him, “Americans want the newest and latest technology available, and the American healthcare system can often provide that quickly. But, quality and speed come at a cost.” For instance, the da Vinci Surgical System is a robotic surgical system made here in America and was cleared by the FDA in 2000. Nonetheless, one of the primary reactions of this innovation is the significantly high expenses related to it.

10. Americans Receive More Medical Care Than Other Countries

America has many individuals living in it. As of this post, the United States populace is approaching 330,000,000. That is many individuals who all need healthcare services. Not only are there more individuals in the U.S. than in most other nations, but again, as per Cutler, “Americans receive more medical care than people do in other countries.” Cutler proceeds to say that this is not simply in terms of going to the doctor for a regular check-up or a monthly visit, however, an individual in the United States who has had a heart attack is a whole lot likely to get open-heart surgery than in most other countries.

Using Canada as an example, Cutler states that in Ontario, there are 11 hospitals that can perform open-heart surgeries. In Pennsylvania — which has a comparable populace to Ontario — 60 hospitals can assume the undertaking of open-heart surgery. Along these lines, while individuals in Canada with lower risks for heart issues might be informed that surgery is not really required, in the U.S. regardless of your risk level, you are probably going to be prescribed to go through a surgery and can without much of a stretch discover a hospital that can perform it. Surgery and other procedures can be costly, and the act of being a bit overeager with who gets clinical operations helps add to the general expense of healthcare in the U.S.

Why do hospitals charge so much?

First, let us take a look at how hospital billing works. The medical billing process and procedures can be divided into eight simple steps:

  • Registrations: As soon as you get an appointment, you are pre-registering with your doctor. If you are seeing that doctor or provider for the first time, you will be asked to give personal and insurance information to jumpstart the appointment.
  • Establishment of financial responsibility for the visit: This portion of the process figures out what amounts are owed for the visit. Moreover, it will also help you to determine what services are covered by the insurance plan. Remember that insurance coverage can change. This means that your services or prescription medicines may not be covered.
  • Patient check-in and check-out: When checking in, you give your complete personal and insurance information to the front desk. When checking out, your medical report will be generated and then sent to a medical coder. It will be translated into an actual medical billing code and a superbill is generated which is then sent to the medical biller.
  • Checking for coding and billing compliance: Claims follow some fundamental requirements, for instance, including the patient’s data ad the procedures performed. Billers are responsible for meeting the requirements of billing compliance when sending bills.
  • Preparing and transmitting claims: Claims are submitted as per the biller’s need.
  • Monitoring payer adjudication: The adjudication process needs a payer to estimate a medical claim and figure out whether it is compliant or not. This is usually done by the insurance company. During this stage, a claim may be accepted, denied, or rejected.
  • Generating patient statements or bills: After this long process, the statement is then sent to you (the patient). In some cases, an Explanation of Benefits is also sent to you.
  • Assigning patient payments and arranging collections: A soon as the bill is sent, it is the patient choice to pay any remainder an insurance company may not have. In case the bill goes delinquent, it will be sent to a collections agency for further follow-up.

In simple words, hospitals and doctors bill such a huge amount toward the start of any treatment because they know two things: insurance organizations will negotiate, and around one-fourth of all patients, do not have insurance, and they will never get the payment for treatment. Truth be told, in 2015, 66% of hospitals lost cash while giving their services to Medicaid and Medicare patients, and one-fourth lost cash overall.

Losing cash is something quite serious for hospitals and doctors. While the expenses of doctor’s visits may appear to be high, the final costs can be a lot lower. Furthermore, compensating for neglected claims is essential for the billing process. There is next to zero sense behind how much any given assistance (or service) costs. It is only a question of numbers and how to earn sufficient profit to keep existing as a hospital or as a supplier. Higher starting costs lead to higher final payouts. Obviously, this may make you question what you can do to not be overcharged for your hospital expenses.

How much does the average person spend on healthcare?

Rich countries, including the U.S., will, in general, spend more per individual on health care and related costs than lower-pay countries. Nonetheless, even as a high-salary country, the U.S. spends more per individual on health than similar countries. Health spending per individual in the U.S. was $10,966 in 2019, which was 42% higher than in Switzerland, the country with the second-highest per capita health spending.

Contrasting health spending in the U.S. to different countries is complex and confusing, as every country has its own special political, economic, and social attributes that add to its spending. Since health spending is closely connected with a country’s riches, the average sum spent on health per individual in similar countries ($5,697) is almost half that of the U.S. ($10,966).

In the last fifty years, the contrast between health spending as a portion of the economy in the U.S. and comparable OECD countries has augmented. In 1970, the U.S. spent about 6% of its GDP on health, which was similar to the expenditure of many comparable countries (the average of comparably rich countries was 5% of GDP in 1970). The U.S. was generally on pace with different countries until the 1980s when its health spending developed at an altogether quicker rate relative to its GDP. In 2019, the United States spent 17% of its GDP on health utilization, though the following highest comparable country, Switzerland, committed 12% of its GDP to health spending.

Health spending development in both the U.S. and other similar countries has expanded somewhat as of late, following slowed development earlier on. During the period from 2005 to 2010, the U.S. saw an average yearly growth rate in health spending of 4.1%, as compared to the 7.3% during the past five-year time frame. Similar countries additionally saw health spending growth decrease on average, from 4.6% average yearly growth during the 2005 to 2010 period to 3.9% during the 2010 to 2015 period.

Most expensive healthcare in the world

The following list shows the top 18 countries in terms of spending on healthcare per capita as per the OECD.

  1. United States
  2. Switzerland
  3. Norway
  4. Germany
  5. Austria
  6. Sweden
  7. Netherlands
  8. Denmark
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Belgium
  11. Canada
  12. France
  13. Ireland
  14. Australia
  15. Japan
  16. Iceland
  17. United Kingdom
  18. Finland

So, what country has the most expensive health care? As we have established previously, the country with the most expensive healthcare system is the United States. If you want a medical consultation with a general practitioner, it will cost you $190 or around €170 on average. Moreover, a hospital stay can result in expenses equivalent to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. For instance, the cost of an appendectomy carried out in the United States is around $33,000, or around €29,000 on average, as compared to the €600 in France. So, in order to stay from having to pay such huge sums, it is important to take out international health insurance before starting your trip.

The circumstance was generally similar in 2014. OECD information recorded the U.S. as the country with the biggest healthcare spending, with approximately $9,000 per capita. On the other hand, Turkey spent around $1,007 per capita on healthcare in 2014 and $1,340 in 2019 — one of the most minimal of any developed country.

In spite of the fact that the U.S. government has the largest healthcare budget, a large part of the expense is not financed publicly, but rather comes from individual expenditures and those identified with private health insurance. Countries like Norway (which spends the third most) have socialized a lot of their medicine. With its surplus from oil subordinates, Norway funds a large part of the country’s social medicine and expenditure through its Government Pension Fund (however of late more expenses have moved to private sources). The fact is, Norway still remains one of the healthiest countries in spite of spending a critical sum less than the U.S. does on healthcare ($6,647 per capita).

The U.S. spends more on its health care budget in pure dollars per capita along with its GDP. Nonetheless, contrasting the sum paid dependent on GDP brings about marginally different rankings. In 2019, the U.S. and also Switzerland were again in the first two spots, spending around 17% and 12% of GDP, respectively. The third spot goes to Germany, with 11.7%, closely followed by France, with 11.2%.

Why is US healthcare so bad?

A lack of insurance coverage.

A typical point of discussion is that health care and health insurance are not the same — that getting more individuals insured will not really improve health results. In any case, as per Commonwealth Fund’s leader, David Blumenthal: “The literature on insurance demonstrates that having insurance lowers mortality. It is equivalent to a public-health intervention.” More than 27 million individuals in the United States were uninsured in 2016 — almost a 10th of the populace — frequently on the grounds that they could not afford the cost of inclusion, live in a state that did not extend Medicaid or are undocumented. Those are not issues that individuals in places like the United Kingdom need to stress over.

Administrative inefficiency.

A lot of money is spent on administrative costs. As per the Commonwealth Fund’s latest report, in the United States, “doctors and patients waste time on billing and insurance claims. Other countries that depend on private health insurers, for instance, the Netherlands, limit some of these issues by standardizing basic benefit bundles, which can both diminish the administrative weight for suppliers and guarantee that patients face predictable co-payments. All in all, while insurance coverage is incredible, it is not ideal that different insurance plans cover different medicines, procedures, and treatments, compelling doctors to go through valuable hours coordinating with insurance organizations to give care.

Underperforming primary care.

Blumenthal also stated that “we have a very disorganized, fragmented, inefficient, and under-resourced primary care system.” In 2014 the Commonwealth Fund tracked down that numerous primary care physicians battle to get significant clinical data from hospitals and specialists, entangling efforts to give consistent, facilitated care. Moreover, Blumenthal also added that on top of an absence of investment in primary care, resources are not put into social administrations, which are significant determinants of health. Things like home visiting, better housing, and sponsored healthy food could expand the work of doctors and do a ton to improve ongoing illness outcomes.


Most other developed countries control costs, to a limited extent, by having the government assume a more solid role in negotiating healthcare costs. Their healthcare systems do not need the high regulatory costs that drive up pricing in the U.S. As the worldwide overseers of their country’s systems, these federal authorities can negotiate lower drug, clinical equipment, and hospital costs. They can impact the treatments utilized and patients’ ability to go to specialists or look for more costly medicines. Buyers may have fewer options, yet costs are controlled.

In the United States, an absence of political support has kept the federal authorities from taking a bigger part in controlling healthcare expenses. The Affordable Care Act centered around ensuring access to healthcare, but kept the status quo to encourage healthy competition among insurers and healthcare providers.

Regardless of how you parse it, there is no rejecting that the U.S. spends more on healthcare far beyond anyone’s expectations. The size of this gap can be clarified generally by the divided organization of health insurance in the U.S. Numerous payment types and insurance organizations exist, each offering various services. This absence of administrative oversight differs from that of other countries, whose governments impose oversight that, by setting benchmarks for pricing and services, establish up a national norm of care. Since the expenses identified with COVID-19 take steps to overwhelm both the healthcare system and federal budget, the ideal opportunity for change might be close by.

John Otero

John Otero

John Otero is an industry practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. He has held various senior management roles both in the insurance companies and insurance brokers during this span of time. He began his insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. He got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how he fell in love with the industry. He saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. John has diverse experience in corporate & consumer insurance services, across a range of vocations. His specialties include Major Corporate risk management and insurance programs, and Financial Lines He has been instrumental in making his firm as one of the leading organizations in the country in generating sustainable rapid growth of the company while maintaining service excellence to clients.