Americans are forced to skimp on medical treatment due to high costs and pay far more for the health care they receive than people who live in other affluent nations, according to a new Commonwealth Fund survey of 11 countries’ health care access and affordability. The new data confirms the well-established notion that America’s health care system is singularly inefficient and prices the sick and poor out of the system.
For instance, the study found that the United States spends an average $8,508 per person on health care — a full $3,000 per person more than the second-biggest spender, Norway. About 37 percent of Americans didn’t see a doctor or fill a prescription because it was too expensive. Forty one percent of Americans spent more than $1,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs in 2013 regardless of whether or not they had insurance, and that’s not even including monthly insurance premiums. The corresponding numbers for all other countries were significantly lower:
The health reform law will help address some of these issues. For instance, when it comes to the insurance plans sold through Obamacare’s statewide marketplaces, out-of-pocket costs are capped — limited to $6,500 for individuals choosing the most bare-bones plans — and federal subsidies are available to help pay for monthly premiums. And when it comes to individual plans, the law limits deductibles, which can currently exceed $10,000 based on a person’s health status. Obamacare also extends financial assistance to lower out-of-pocket spending for Americans who make less than 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and guarantees benefits such as hospital stays and prescription drug coverage.
But the vast majority of Americans receive health coverage through their employers. Unfortunately, companies have increasingly pushed health care costs onto their workers by turning to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) that come with low premiums but very high deductibles. That trend is expected to continue as employers attempt to save on their own costs by making workers pay more for their own health care, and it’s an example of the type of “consumer-driven” health care that’s long been at the center of conservative proposals for health care reform.