Do You Know What’s Really Driving Up Health Care Costs in Your State? Take This Quiz

Do you really know what’s driving up health care costs in the United States? Take this true or false quiz to separate fact from fiction.

It’s common knowledge that health care spending in the United States is much higher than in other developed countries, and our out-sized spending doesn’t even help us live longer. A new Journal of the American Medical Association article, which compares health care costs in America with 10 other countries, is required reading for state policy leaders who are looking for levers to reduce health care spending. Take this quiz for a reminder about what’s really behind spiraling health care spending.

The United States spends nearly twice more of its GDP on health care than does Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Japan. True or false?

True. America spends 17.8 percent of its GDP on health care services, compared to the four countries that spend between 9.6 to 10.5 percent of their GDP on health care.

America’s costs are higher because we go to the doctor more often. True or false?

False. Americans see doctors at about the same rate as in other countries.

America’s costs are higher because we have more specialists. True or false?

False. We have about the same number of specialists, per population, as other countries.

Health care in America costs more because our doctors order more tests. True or false?

True. American doctors order more tests and procedures than other countries. America ordered the highest number of CT scans and the second-highest number of MRIs per 1,000 population among the countries surveyed.

These medical tests and procedures cost more in America than in other countries. True or false?

True. An MRI costs $1,150 on average in the United States, compared to about $140 in Switzerland, and a CT scan costs $896 in the United States, compared to $97 in Canada.

These additional medical tests result in better health outcomes. True or false?

False. Despite all that spending, our life expectancy is the lowest and infant mortality is the highest among the countries surveyed, especially among poor and non-white populations.

In the United States, high-cost  procedures, such as knee replacements, cataract surgeries, angioplasty, and coronary-bypass grafts, are performed more often than in developed countries. True or false?

True. Not only were these procedures performed more frequently in America, their price tag was much higher. And, some of these procedures inevitably led to costly complications that health plans, Medicaid, and Medicare had to pay for. These extra tests and procedures did not improve life expectancy or reduce infant mortality.

In the United States, people are hospitalized more frequently, which drives up costs. True or false?

False. America has about the same number of hospital beds, discharge rates, and hospitalizations per population as the other countries. It spent 19 percent of its total health care expenditures on inpatient care, which was the second-lowest among the 11 countries in the study.

America spends much more on outpatient care than do other countries. True or false?

True. Most of these high-cost tests and procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. As a result, America spent 42 percent of its health care expenditures on outpatient care, compared to France, Germany, and The Netherlands, which spent less than 23 percent.

Americans spend about the same on prescription drugs as those in other developed countries. True or false?

False. Americans spend about $1,443 annually per person because medication costs more here than abroad. Need some examples? One Lyrica pill costs $6.04 in the United States and 63 cents in Canada. One capsule of the hepatitis C drug Harvoni, invented in the United States, costs $1,090 here and $798 in Canada.

Administrative and provider costs are higher in the United States, which contributes to soaring health care costs. True or false?

True. Administrative costs of managing health systems and services, which include handling insurance billing, accounted for 8 percent of US health care costs, compared to 1 to 3 percent in the other countries. US salaries for physicians and nurses were higher, averaging about $218,173 annually for a US generalist physician, compared to a doctor’s average salary of $86,607 in Sweden and $154,126 in Germany.

Bottom line, researchers found that high provider, administrative, pharmaceutical, and medical device prices drove up health care costs in the United States. “As patients, physicians, policy makers, and legislators actively debate the future of the US health system, data such as these are needed to inform policy decisions,” they concluded.