Study finds high doctor fees to blame for growing U.S. health care costs
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Steve Chiotakis: At last night’s Republican presidential debate, all 8 candidates were quick to criticize President Obama’s health care overhaul. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said health care can save money by cutting costs and computerizing medical records.
But a study out today in the journal Health Affairs says a big reason Americans pay more for health care is because doctors get paid so much.
Marketplace’s Amy Scott is with us live now to talk about it. Morning, Amy.
Amy Scott: Morning, Steve.
Chiotakis: How much more for health care are we paying?
Scott: Well let’s take the example of hip surgery — a pretty common procedure in this country. With private insurance, it’s nearly $4,000 in fees per procedure here — and that’s about twice as much as in other countries. Medicare gets a cheaper rate, but still is paying 70 percent more than public insurance in other countries. And that’s why U.S. doctors have much higher incomes than their counterparts elsewhere. The average orthopedic surgeon here makes almost half a million dollars before taxes.
Chiotakis: So what does that mean, Amy, for overall health care spending?
Scott: The study says those higher fees are the main drivers of higher overall U.S. spending on health care — as opposed to things like practice costs or med school tuition.
Here’s what JB Silvers, a health finance professor at Case Western, had to say about the findings.
JB Silvers: One lesson might be, if we ever want to control costs on this side, we need to regulate more, and that’s anathema to most physicians. They just wouldn’t even consider that as a possibility.
As you mention, we just had a major health insurance overall. And it didn’t do much to address doctors’ fees.
Chiotakis: Marketplace’s Amy Scott reporting live. Amy, thanks.
Scott: You’re. welcome.
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