Posted on: December 11, 2019 at 6:04 pm
Last updated: July 13, 2020 at 5:45 pm

In a viral video shared by UK news website JOE, British citizens attempted to guess how much basic healthcare services cost in the United States… and were shocked to find out how far off their estimates were [1].

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In the United Kingdom, if you need to call an ambulance it costs you exactly zero pounds. Giving birth to your child will rack up zero medical bills. This is because, for the British, the majority of their healthcare is covered by the National Health Service (NHS) [2].

You can imagine the disbelief, then, when the people in the video found out that an ambulance in the United States costs a whopping $2500, and giving birth to a baby can run you anywhere from $10 000 to $30 000 – some have even been even charged forty dollars to simply hold their own baby after giving birth [2].

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After learning the cost of an inhaler, one woman claimed “Man, so if you’re poor, you’re dead.” [2]

This video was produced in light of recent fears that President Donald Trump wants to open up the NHS to American companies once Brexit is complete and the UK has left the European Union, a claim the president has actively denied making [3].

While the video is quite entertaining, and the reactions will almost certainly make you laugh, it reveals the dark truth about healthcare in the United States – a truth that is far from a laughing matter.

How does Healthcare Work in the United States?

The healthcare system in the United States is made of two parts: the private sector and the public sector [4].

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The public healthcare sector in the US provides very little coverage and is reserved for those who cannot afford any other type of healthcare. That means that the rest of the population must purchase insurance from private companies [4].

In order to have private health insurance, you have to pay a monthly premium. This is the fee you pay every month regardless of whether or not you use any services [4].

If you do have to use healthcare services, you have to pay a deductible, which means you have to pay full price for that service until your payment covers the deductible [4].

After the deductible is covered, you have to pay coinsurance, which requires you to split the bill with your insurance company after the deductible is covered. This split could have you paying anywhere from forty to seventy percent of the entire cost, depending on the type of plan you have [4].

How Expensive is Healthcare in the United States?

A study that analyzed 13 high-income countries’ healthcare spending habits revealed that the United States spent more on healthcare per capita than any other country in the study [5].

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Americans spent $11 172 per person on healthcare in 2018 [6].

So where are these costs coming from? Here is a breakdown of the average cost of some common healthcare services in America:

Ambulance: $400 to $1200+

ER Visit: $150 to $3000+

MRI: $1000 to $5000

X-Ray: $150 to $3000

Blood Test: $100 to $3000

Childbirth: $9000 to $17000+

Cesarean Section: $14000 to $25000+

Sprained or broken wrist: $500 to $10 000+Cancer: $1800 to $800 000+

Why is Healthcare So Expensive in the United States?

There are a number of reasons why healthcare in the US is so expensive. According to Harvard economist David Cutler, the administrative costs of running the US healthcare system are the number one reason for the high price tag [7]. Because there are so many insurers in the United States, a much higher number of administrative staff are needed to process their different requirements [7].

Drugs are also much more expensive in the US than in any other developed nation. In many countries, the government and drug makers can negotiate drug prices, but in the US, Medicare does not have the power to do this [7].

Another big reason for the high cost of healthcare is the practice of “Defensive Medicine”. Basically, even when doctors are certain of a diagnosis, they order multiple tests that are not needed for fear that they will be sued [7]. This drives up both insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Another trend in US medicine is that doctors tend to use a more expensive mix of treatments, and patients are treated more often by specialists. Specialists command higher pay, and the referral decision-making process makes the whole thing more expensive still [7].

Finally, branding is yet another driver of the high healthcare costs in America. A prestigious medical institution can demand a higher price for their drugs or equipment because they’re the brand everyone wants [7].

Related: American in Iceland Finds a Lump on Her Body and Her Viral Twitter Thread Shows How Much Better Their Healthcare Is

How Are High Healthcare Costs Affecting Americans?

Between rising insurance premiums and increasing out-of-pocket costs, many Americans are feeling the pinch. Some Americans are even borrowing against the value of their homes in order to afford their health insurance policies [8].

How does this affect the average American? Many people avoid going to the doctor, despite the presence of obvious symptoms, or even the knowledge that they have a medical condition, because of the cost [8].

61-year-old Ed from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, forgoes necessary medical care because he can’t afford it.  

“My employer-paid plan has a $5K deductible, so I don’t get medical services if I can help it,” he said. “I forgo blood pressure meds and colonoscopy,” [8].

In 2005, nearly half of all bankruptcies (46%) filed in the United States are due to medical expenses not covered by insurance, or by losing more than two weeks worth of work because of illness [9]. This number has since increased to almost 67%, according to some of the most recent data [10].

It’s no wonder the Brits were appalled at the cost of American healthcare – they know that if they had to pay that much, they couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, either. 

The video may be funny, but the reality is not. Socialized healthcare may have its downfalls (what doesn’t?), but which has the best net benefit for our selves, our families, and society? As more and more Americans succumb to the rising cost of healthcare, change needs to happen, or thousands of people will miss out on the medical care that they so desperately need.

Read More:

He Lost His Insurance and Turned to a Cheaper Insulin.

Canadian Family Drives Home from Florida with Dead Body to Avoid US Health Care Costs, Report Says

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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