There is no doubt that there are hidden costs of healthcare. We don’t mean the premiums or seeking care outside of your network, or even Emergency Room bills. It may sound cynical, but most people are fully cognizant of the shortfalls in their coverage, and expect to receive “surprise” bills associated with their care. For those without coverage, a medical emergency or long-term health problem could literally cost a family its home.
What we wanted to explore today were other “hidden” costs of healthcare: the things you might not know about why medical treatment costs so much more in the U.S. Americans spend more money per person on healthcare than any other country in the world: about $3.5 trillion, or $10,739 per person in 2017, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The primary costs are reflected in hospital care (about 33% of all healthcare costs) and physician/clinical services (about 20% of all healthcare costs).
Why do medications cost so much?
Third on the list are retail prescription drug costs, which account for 10% of all annual spending, making is the third. The United States is the only country in the world that permits drug manufacturers, drug companies, and hospitals to set the price for what they charge. There is no intervention or oversight by the government when it comes to setting the price on drugs when they come to market. In fact, “The United States allows drugmakers to set their own prices for a given product — and allows every drug that’s proven to be safe come onto market. And the problems that causes are easy to see, from the high copays at the drugstore to the people who can’t afford lifesaving medications.”
In short, drug makers rely on investors, just like any industry. Fewer profits means fewer investors, which can mean fewer new drugs on the market. Instead of creating medications that help people survive, manufacturers cater to their shareholders, and keep prices high to ensure further investment.
The cost of having a baby is higher than you think
In what has come to be a surprise for most first-time mothers, many are not covered by their insurance companies for their pregnancy. For example, a first-time mother received a $3,000 bill for a visit to her OBGYN that involved a blood draw, some tests, and a discussion about the pregnancy with her doctor.
How is this happening? The first-time mother remained on her parents’ health plan because she was under the age of 26, and her husband’s coverage was not strong due to him working various jobs. When she contacted the insurance company, she was told that it would pay just $1,000 and most of the prenatal testing, such as ultrasounds, were not covered.
The cost of pregnancy is astronomical in the United States. It is estimated that vaginal delivery in Washington, D.C. will cost between $9,797 (if you’re in-network) and $18,053 (if uninsured) according to FAIR Health – and that is if everything goes smoothly, and you require nothing more from your doctors. It does not account for deductibles, co-pays, or any of the pre- or post-natal care: it only accounts for the delivery.
Cost of healthcare for the elderly is rising fast
A report by the Peterson G. Peterson Foundation reports that our aging population spends about 3x more on healthcare than those under the age of 65, and that “the population of individuals age 65 and over is expected to increase by 16 million over the next decade.” Add this to greater life expectancies and unchecked regulation on medication costs, and it is safe to assume that all of us are in for a rude awakening as we get older.
LGBTQ+ community faces healthcare struggles
The LGBTQ+ community faces healthcare struggles of its own, although not nearly the same issues with costs as pregnant women. A study conducted in 2013 by the CDC of LGBTQ+ community members who had an income under 400 percent of the federal poverty level discovered that four out of 10 members of the community had some form of medical debt and four in 10 decided to postpone a medical procedure because of the high cost. The same study found that same-sex couples have higher rates of medical needs that are not met because of high costs and that they are less likely to have a regular medical provider compared to heterosexual couples.