Why Americans Pay More for Colonoscopies

Because America charges more, and has made the procedure more profitable
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2013 4:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Americans spend more on health care than any other country. A US hip replacement costs four times as much as one in Switzerland. A C-section costs three times as much as New Zealand. And a hospital stay costs triple that of other developed nations—though it doesn't typically last any longer. And studies say it's not because Americans get better care—the price tags are just higher, reports the New York Times. "People think it’s like other purchases: that if you pay more you get a better car. But in medicine, it’s not like that," says a doctor who tracks health care pricing.

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The Times looks at the colonoscopy, which costs an average of $1,185 in the US, but a few hundred in most other first-world countries. Colonoscopies are not the only way to screen for colon cancer, and until a decade ago, weren't so common. Now more than 10 million Americans get them each year. And as the market has grown, so too have the business opportunities. The procedure has been made more profitable by moving it from doctors' offices to special surgery centers, and using anesthesiologists. So why does this happen in the US and not elsewhere? Ezra Klein, looking at the same data, says it's because other countries have set rates, negotiated by governments or providers. In the US, outside of Medicare, it's a "free-for-all," he writes in the Washington Post. Click to read Klein's full column at the Post and the full article at the Times. (Read more colonoscopy stories.)

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