Americans struggle more with medical debt than people in other countries, LA Times reports

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Struggling to pay for medical bills and keep up with starkly high out-of-pocket costs are uniquely an American patient experience, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Despite having insurance, Americans typically pay a lot more for medical care compared to other countries. For example, a typical physician visit costs $1.12 in France, and a night in a German hospital costs about $11, an LA Times examination of international health insurance systems found. 

The examination found that countries with government health plans, such as Britain and Canada, as well as countries that rely on private insurers, such as Germany and the Netherlands, have stringent limits on the amount patients can be charged. Most patients in those countries don't face the same struggles affording medical bills as many Americans do.

"The U.S. likes to see itself on par with other high-income countries," Jonathan Cylus, a former economist at HHS who now studies patient costs internationally at the World Health Organization and European Observatory in London, told the newspaper. "The truth is, it's a real outlier."

For its analysis on international healthcare, the LA Times interviewed dozens of patients and physicians worldwide, including at clinics and hospitals in Germany, Britain and the Netherlands. The newspaper also examined data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international organization, the World Health Organization and European Observatory.

Based on data from the most recent year available, the analysis found that 7.4 percent of Americans faced catastrophic healthcare spending in the year prior. That's compared to 3.2 percent of people in Australia, 2.6 percent of people in Japan, 1.9 percent of people in France, 2.4 percent of people in Germany, 1.4 percent of people in the United Kingdom and 1.1 percent of people in the Netherlands.

The LA Times said that while care is often cheaper in other countries, it comes with some tradeoffs. For example, hospitals in Britain may be overcrowded, and in Canada patients may face substantial delays for care.

Read more here.  


More articles on healthcare finance: 

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2 Mississippi hospitals spend millions a year to avoid treating serious trauma patients
How medical bills are affecting families with kids: 7 report findings

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