Med One Blog

The Cost of American Health Care

High Cost of Elderly Health Care

By Ibby Smith Stofer

They say we used to lead the world in healthcare just a couple of decades ago.

We still do as far as costs go!

Not too many years ago American workers dreamt of the days when they would be retired. They would have a good pension, plus any savings they had accumulated to spend as they wished. Many expected that Social Security and Medicare would be the safety net allowing them to travel at will, visit family and friends, and basically enjoy the good life of their golden years.

In the United States of America, more than 10,000 people reach the retirement age of 65 each day. Unfortunately, many must continue to work well past that historic birthday. Yes, they become eligible for Medicare and can draw their Social Security, but with the ever-rising costs of daily living, the lack of personal savings, and chronic health issues, they have no other choice. They still need the income and insurance that are usually linked to employment.

In addition to these concerns, the state of America’s health care, as well as its costs, are alarming to many. Many American’s believed that the Affordable Care Act and or its replacement were the hope and change needed to lower costs, improve coverage and provide affordable medical care. At least one major concern was going to be resolved. Sure, the monetary issues and lack of savings would still be there, but at least they would have affordable medical care.

Since many of my colleagues and family were approaching this time of life, I decided to do some research on how the United States medical costs compared to other nations. What I found was not only scary but a disgrace. I am one who has crossed the Medicare threshold and no longer has private insurance. I found data on a few of the most recent medical conditions that I have personally experienced as well as several other conditions. The following data comes from the International Federation of Health Plans.

A similar study can be found at:

To begin let’s look at the costs of one day in a United States Hospital.

A day in a hospital costs $4,293 in the U.S. and $702 in Argentina

Average cost of one day in a hospital (2013)

Hospital Stay Cost

Source: International Federation of Health Care Plans

Note that the average length of stay in United States community hospitals as reported by the American Hospital Association is 5.5 days.

Recently I had issues with my hip. While I did not have a full hip replacement, I did break one hip and had a pin inserted to repair it. The following is data on America's costs for a full hip replacement in comparison to other countries.

A hip replacement in the U.S. was three times as expensive as one in Spain.

Average cost of a hip replacement (2013)

Hip Replacement Cost

Source: International Federation of Health Care Plans

Medicare paid over $15,000 for my surgery and my 5-day hospital stay in 2012. I am certain that costs have continued to rise since then.

Fortunately, I have not had any heart issues. The difference in cost for a bypass surgery out of the country versus in the country is astronomical.

For the price of one American bypass surgery, you could buy two new cars.

Average cost of bypass surgery (2013)

Bypass Surgery Cost

Source: International Federation of Health Care Plans

Drugs and procedures also follow the trend. Study after study shows that we pay multiple times what other countries do for both prescription and over the counter medications and medical procedures. Not only seniors are asked to pay extreme amounts for prescriptions and procedures. The cost of delivering a child in the United States was $3,500 more than it was in Australia and over 4 times the cost in Argentina or Spain.

While Medicare pays for most of the costs for major procedures, the out of pocket for supplemental insurance continues to skyrocket. I know for the top of the line insurance plan, the costs for my husband and I easily exceeds $7,000 per year. Neither Medicare nor my supplemental insurance offers coverage for prescriptions, eye, or dental care. These costs are also skyrocketing beyond what many can afford. My mid priced hearing aids cost over $5,000 and were not covered by any insurance. Working individuals are facing higher deductibles as well as increased costs for private insurance and again many items are often excluded. Healthcare for all has become challenging and a drain on income and financial resources. The market demand has shown significant growth year after year and is expected to reach $32.5 Billion by 2019.

Health Care in Thailand

A trend that has emerged, especially among seniors, is known as medical tourism. It is described as people traveling outside of their home country to seek medical care. Americans are not the only ones seeking to combine medical care and a vacation destination. There are many medical conditions that attract global care seekers. Cosmetic surgery, cardiac care, dental services, fertility treatments, weight reduction surgery, and rehabilitation in exotic destinations such as Thailand, India, and South and Central America allow one to visit a new country and receive lower costs for medical care. The Internet has expanded both knowledge and interest in many global locations that offer medical services at a much lower cost.

One of the most comprehensive articles I found was by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. It can be viewed at Here is a chart that illustrates why many find the combination of tourism and medical care attractive.

Medical Tourism Prices (in selected countries)

Medical Tourism Prices

*Costs given in US dollars.

It seems as if medical tourism will continue to take U.S. citizens out of the country. Many make this choice although the expense may have to come out of personal savings, versus using Medicare to cover the majority of the medical related costs. To our aging population, the cost differentials tell a compelling story to leave the U.S. for a healthcare vacation combo.

How do we reverse these trends? What are your thoughts? United States politicians claim that we have the highest quality and most comprehensive care worldwide. Studies show a different picture. Healthcare costs are among the top causes of bankruptcy and many avoid care since they truly cannot afford it.

The dream of relaxing and adventurous filled golden years seems too distant for many to chase. It is sad and we need to find a better way. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas with our federal representatives. While most of them appear oblivious to the facts and have no need to seek affordable care outside the U.S.A., they do need to hear our voices. Too many are delaying or avoiding care due to the costs, and those who do seek help often find themselves facing a mountain of bills that they can not pay.