Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

America’s expensive healthcare system


Last week Les, he of the Stupid Evil Bastard blog, linked to this article about how Americans pay five times more for their medications than the French on Facebook. It drew my attention because one of the drugs it mentions is Advair, which is known as Seretide in Europe, and is one of the three drugs I take to treat my asthma.

In America, Advair costs $391 in Costco – about £236. Whereas it’s €55 in France which is about £44, more than five times cheaper. It’s the exact same drug.

In Britain prescription drugs are subsidised by the NHS, so two Advair/Seretide inhalers costs me £8.05. They would be free if I qualified for free prescriptions, by being young, old, having certain medical conditions, in receipt of benefits or if I lived in Scotland or Wales where prescription charges have been abolished altogether. The cost to the NHS is probably the same as it is in France but I only need to pay a contribution.

I’m so glad that drugs which – let’s be clear – keep me alive don’t cost me the earth. The article quotes a mother of a child who needs to take Advair but can’t afford it – by the sounds of it her insurance will only cover part of the cost leaving her to pay the remaining $99. Which is more than someone in France would have to pay in total. It’s ridiculous.

There is a lot wrong with America’s healthcare system – research from the Commonwealth Fund shows that health expenditure per capita is $8508, compared with just $3405 in Britain. And yet Britain ranks top for quality of care, access and efficiency with America at the bottom. Britain’s NHS is able to do so much more with less than half of the money that’s in the American system.

Obama’s reforms have helped, by increasing access to health insurance coverage to those previously ineligible. But whilst ‘Obamacare’ is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t fix the problem that just about everything with American healthcare is hugely and unnecessarily expensive. The system as it is now has far too many people taking their cut of the money, whether it’s the drug companies, hospitals or the health insurance providers. We in Britain are so very, very lucky to have the NHS.

One Comment

  1. Oh, there’s a great deal wrong with the healthcare system in this country and I could go on for a bit here. When I moved here from England it took me ages to get my head around why they do things this way. Totally bizarre for someone coming from a NHS based system.

    One of the biggies for me is having “health insurance” except for when you don’t.

    For instance, you’re in hospital and the Dr thinks you need tests a, b, and c. You say “ok, sure thing Doc” because they’re the experts right. Then a couple of weeks later you get a nice bill in the post saying “oh, but your insurance company doesn’t cover tests b or c so you owe the hospital $700”.

    Having to ask the “wait, before you give me that test, I need to figure out if my insurance covers it” isn’t something you always think of in the heat of the moment.