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High-priced medical devices another reason for expensive healthcare in U.S.

medical device

Add medical devices to the long list of reasons health care costs so much in the United States.

Along with hospital procedures, doctor visits and prescription drugs, a new study from Health Affairs finds that medical devices are also much more expensive in the U.S. than other high-income countries, like Germany.

In fact, the study states that, compared with Germany, U.S. hospitals sometimes pay two to six times more for a stent or pacemaker or other device.

The study also notes that 6 percent of all U.S. health care spending goes toward medical devices, which totals about $200 billion annually.

The reason for the higher price?

The paper’s researchers have a theory.

“Manufacturers exploit varying levels of willingness-to-pay and bargaining power between buyers to charge different prices across hospitals and increase profits,” they wrote.

In reviewing the study, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) points out that, just like pharmaceuticals, the prices of medical devices are often shrouded in mystery, and knowing the actual cost is hard to determine.

Unfortunately, unlike drugs, medical devices have no generic alternative to save money. Many devices, such as technologically complex pacemakers, are made and sold by just a few companies. Furthermore, physicians often have their “favorite” devices, and trying to restrict a surgeon’s choice of equipment to save money can be, as ACSH described in its article, “very, very ugly.”

Have you been surprised by a hospital bill that included an expensive medical device? Share your voice.