Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) famously said that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.
Healthcare myths are often nurtured by industry players benefiting from them, though some are helped by our predispositions. For example, people comparing items tend to think that the higher priced one is better.
Here are the four biggest myths about US healthcare:
Myth: A major reason for high US hospital prices is cross-subsidy for the uninsured, non-paying patients.
Reality: Only 8% of hospital patients are uninsured and some charges are recovered from even this group. Hospital figures of 12% of un-recovered dues are based on the vastly inflated “list” prices that they bill uninsured patients.
Myth: The extra revenues from the high prices that drug companies charge US patients are ploughed back into research that leads to new, vital and innovative treatments.
Reality: Little of that extra money goes into truly innovative (as opposed to "me too") drugs. And to maximize their returns, drug companies on average spend over 30% of their revenues on marketing (even more so in the US), versus 13% for R&D. (See more in the first post and an incisive article by two Harvard academics.)
Myth: You get what you pay for. Pricey US healthcare is the best in the world.
Reality: Some “five star” foreign hospitals provide better quality in terms of outcomes (lower mortality and complication rates) and patient experience, at a fraction of US prices. Many of them are JCI accredited, with US/UK trained doctors. (See more in an earlier post.)
Myth: US healthcare provides a malpractice safety net / jackpot if things go wrong.
Reality: As many as 95% of US medical negligence cases including 90% of deaths from negligence do not result in a claim, often because the victim and their families don’t know or can’t prove that negligence occurred. Of cases that ARE filed, two thirds fail to secure any compensation. So the malpractice game is like a lottery with less than 3% of the payments going into prize money. And even the lucky winners have to fight an average of five years to collect their proceeds.