A bypass surgery has an average price in the US of $150,515. In the Netherlands, $14,061. An MRI scan in the US costs $2,871 while in Spain $230. Celebrex, a commonly prescribed drug for pain, costs $258 in the US. The same compound in Canada is valued in $53.

Every year, the International Federation of Health Plans, a network of leading health insurance CEO’s from over 25 countries, compiles data of the economical cost of specific drugs, products and medical services to better understand why healthcare costs are so much higher in some countries than others.


According to the 2012 Comparative Price Report, the United States is by far the world leader in medical spending and often by huge margins. The US has a $2.7 trillion annual healthcare bill not because Americans get better care that other developed countries or use extraordinary services but, says an article at The New York Times, mostly because lobbying, marketing and turf battles between hospitals, drug companies, device makers, physicians and other providers to maximize revenues from ordinary medical procedures such as colonoscopies.

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Colonoscopies are the most expensive screening test that healthy Americans routinely undergo. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the last 15 years the number of colonoscopies has increased to more than 10 million per year because they are prescribed more often than medical guidelines recommend. Each colonoscopy costs $1,185 adding more than $10 billion to the annual healthcare bill.

The United States spend currently about 18% of its gross domestic product on healthcare and the costs continue to grow. Innovation involving every aspect of medical care—its delivery to consumers, its technology and its business models- could stop this never-ending ascent of healthcare bill. Innovations that minimize doctor visits, unnecessary medical tests and other expensive services for example hold the potential to deliver more value for less money in the long term.

Implementing change may be harder in healthcare than in other industries. Many stakeholders fear that altering existing practices could adversely affect patient care. However, the return on past medical innovations has been nothing short of astonishing. At the onset of the baby boom generation, heart disease and stroke were near death sentences. The chances of surviving each today are 60% and 70% greater, respectively, thanks to cutting-edge medicines and surgical techniques.

Several initiatives are already underway. For example, last May the Obama Administration announced a nearly $1 billion initiative that will fund awards and evaluation to transform the health care system by delivering better care and lowering costs. 

You can read the full The New York Times article here.