U.S. health care price fixing

This New York Times article reports on findings that basic medical procedures around the U.S. consistently cost much, much more than in comparable countries, and that it’s this, rather than rising drug costs, that is accounting for much of the rise in health care costs. And it seems to be related to backroom negotiations between health care providers and insurance companies.

Americans pay, on average, about four times as much for a hip replacement as patients in Switzerland or France and more than three times as much for a Caesarean section as those in New Zealand or Britain. The average price for Nasonex, a common nasal spray for allergies, is $108 in the United States compared with $21 in Spain. The costs of hospital stays here are about triple those in other developed countries, even though they last no longer, according to a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that studies health policy.

While the United States medical system is famous for drugs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and heroic care at the end of life, it turns out that a more significant factor in the nation’s $2.7 trillion annual health care bill may not be the use of extraordinary services, but the high price tag of ordinary ones.