According to a new study, which was presented at the annual meeting in Chicago of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, even though American cancer patients paid twice as much as Canadians did for healthcare, they still didn’t get twice the benefit. The study was done on patients with advanced colorectal cancer who, some of them, lived just a few miles from each other.
The patients shared some things in common that could affect health outcomes and mortality like diagnoses, financial situations, and level of education. The biggest difference between the patients is factored by which side of the border they reside.
According to data from hospitals, a total of approximately $12,345 was spent a month on cancer patients who live in western Washington for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Todd Yezefski’s study, while only $61,95 was spent in a month on cancer patients who reside in British Columbia.
Dr. Yezefski shared that the care for the two groups slightly differed. Chemotherapy was ordered more often by American doctors than Canadian doctors did. Age may have been a factor because US patients were a little younger as a group than that of the Canadian patients. Even though the American patients’ treatment was twice as expensive, the patients didn’t live longer than the Canadian patients.
American cancer patients with advanced colorectal cancer who came from western Washington were able to endure about 21.4 months with treatment while patients from British Columbia outlasted 22.1 months. It’s worth to note that this survival time is unchanging with this type of cancer.
Dr. Yezefski also mentioned that this is the first research that has looked into something like this that showed cost, utilization, and outcome. They are looking forward to getting more data to explore in more detail the doctor visits and the use of radiation and surgery.
However, the study also has its limitations since it is only based on a small number of patients – 575 in Washington and 1,622 in Canada – and only looks into one kind of disease.
Another thing that we can take from the study is that the government sets the prices for what they pay for the therapy and for the drugs involved in this treatment in British Columbia. In the US, the price and whatever the pharmaceutical companies are charging is set. If the largest payer for medication, Medicare, could arrange the prices for drugs, overall, the cost could go down, even for what private insurance pays.
Based on the current policy in the US, the US Health and Human Services secretary is not allowed to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies on behalf of people enrolled in the program’s prescription plan, Medicare Part D. Medicare accounted for a total of 29% of spending at drugstores back in 2016. According to a recent poll, most American want the policy changed.
William Dow shared that high prices are not only on drugs, but the whole healthcare system is a huge factor of why Americans spend comparably more than other countries on healthcare. Doe is the interim dean at the School of Public Health and the Kaiser Permanente Endowed Chair in Health Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley.
William Dow finds Dr. Yezefski’s presentation interesting because the study’s results are consistent with other research as to why Americans pay so much more for healthcare. Price plays a huge part in the price difference.
Chairwoman of the Department of Economics and Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Janet Currie, agreed on the importance of the new study as it is important for Americans to understand that they do pay higher prices for almost everything in the US healthcare system.
Janet Currie has also done a similar research and said that there are other factors that drive the extreme prices in US healthcare.
One factor is the lack of transparency in price. In a lot of instances, most patients don’t know what they’re paying for until they get the bill. Prices at hospitals vary even if they are close to each other. If only patients knew how much things cost, they might have went around looking for a hospital with much better fees, which may encourage hospitals to charge less than they do now.
Another is the high administrative costs for healthcare, which sometimes account for 25% of the US hospital spending, which, as backed by studies, are more than twice than what hospitals in Canada spends. This is partly caused the the fractured healthcare system in the US. A doctor’s office spends a lot of time on administrative tasks like chasing insurance companies and filling out paperwork. Hospitals in Canada get a lump-sum budget which covers the costs of healthcare.
US government projections show that US healthcare will only get higher unless there is a major renovation of the healthcare system.