Nov 13, 2019

We all pay for the bloated U.S. health care system

Expand chart
Data: OECD; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Americans pay higher out-of-pocket costs than most other wealthy countries, a byproduct of having the most expensive health care system in the world, according to the OECD.

Why it matters: Health care costs are at the heart of today's most explosive health care debates, including Medicare for All, prescription drug prices and surprise medical bills.

Medicare for All has been offered by some Democrats as the solution to these issues of expense, but the version proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren "would leapfrog all these other countries in terms of generosity," said the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt.

  • "Other high income countries in the world provide universal coverage and protect patients from crippling out of pocket costs, but none of them have zero cost sharing like the Medicare for all plans being debated now," he added.

The bottom line: Other countries — even those with private insurance — pay lower prices than the U.S. to doctors, hospitals and drug companies.

  • "The main regulatory difference is that other similarly large and wealthy countries’ governments play a role in either directly or indirectly controlling prices," said KFF's Cynthia Cox.
  • Some supporters of Medicare for All want to change that; Warren has proposed aggressive cost control measures as part of her plan.

Go deeper

Democrats double down on health care prices

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many 2020 Democrats' health care proposals feature aggressive price regulations, either as a feature or a byproduct — a sign that the party has largely given up on the idea that competition alone can keep costs in check.

Between the lines: It's not just Democrats. As public outrage has grown over prescription drug prices and surprise medical bills, there's been bipartisan congressional interest in regulating prices.

Go deeperArrowDec 2, 2019

Moderate muscle rises against Dems’ 2020 left

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The early boom for 2020 Democrats' left turn is yielding to moderate muscle as Elizabeth Warren falls, Joe Biden persists and Pete Buttigieg rises.

  • What's happening: Poll after poll shows voters like the idea of Medicare for All. But the second you tell them about costs and tradeoffs, they turn on it.
  • Why it matters: A harsh spotlight on Warren's specifics collided with Mike Bloomberg's massive spending on a moderate message, as well as rising angst among donors and investors about risks of Warren-Sanders socialism.
Go deeperArrowNov 29, 2019

Warren's path to Medicare for All is rocky

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's two-part plan to pass a public option as a transition into Medicare for All — and then full-blown Medicare for All a few years later — has revealed the difficulty of appealing to both the pragmatic and progressive wings of the party.

The big picture: Warren's already being criticized by progressives for not being a Medicare for All purist, and because of the realities of governing, they may have a point: Passing two major health reforms in one term is unheard of.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019