High Prices Are Breaking the Health Care System

Sarah Kliff points out a big problem with the U.S. health care system: prices are too high and secret.

Americans pay exorbitant prices for all kinds of care. As a health care reporter, I find myself writing about $25,000 MRIs, $629 Band-Aids — even a $39.95 fee just to hold one’s own baby after delivery. People send me these types of bills quite regularly via email.

The health care prices in the United States are, in a word, outlandish. On average, an MRI in the United States costs $1,119. That same scan costs $503 in Switzerland and $215 in Australia.

These are uniquely American stories, and they are the key to understanding our dysfunctional health care system. High prices are hurting American families. Most Americans who get insurance at work now have a deductible over $1,000. High prices are why medical debt remains a leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, and nowhere else.

She is launching a project which asks readers to submit hospital bills through our secure system so we can start getting a nationwide picture of one particular hospital fee, called an emergency facility fee.

The reason we’ve selected this fee is because nearly all hospitals charge one for seeking emergency room care, but the price varies enormously and is typically kept secret.

They will report back on their findings soon.