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Pharma Prices Already Up in 2020; U.S. Health Care Costs Compared to Other Countries; Focus on Health Care, Not War

Public Citizen Has You Covered


Welcome to this week’s edition of “We’ve Got You Covered,” a weekly tipsheet designed to highlight key news about Medicare for All and call out the biggest industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz at mstankiewicz@citizen.org or (202) 588-7779.


Talk about digging in. Despite the national outcry over unaffordable prescription medications, Big Pharma started off the new decade in typical fashion: raising drug prices. Several multibillion-dollar corporations, including Gilead, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, hiked the prices on more than 250 prescription drugs on the first day of the year.

“It’s a new decade, but it’s business as usual for prescription drug corporations,” said Steve Knievel, advocate with Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Tweets and half-baked proposals from President Donald Trump are not stopping Big Pharma from price gouging consumers.”

Spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. totaled more than $480 billion in 2016, almost 15% of the $3.3 trillion total spent on health care that year. Under Medicare for All, the health care system could save at least $115 billion annually by allowing the federal government to negotiate for more affordable drugs, and patients would face no out-of-pocket costs for necessary prescription medicines.


A new report by the International Federation of Health Plans finds that prescription medications, basic health visits and common operations in the U.S. are much more costly than most other countries.

For example, an angioplasty – a critical heart procedure – costs about $32,200 in the U.S., but $6,400 in the Netherlands and $7,400 in Switzerland. A common MRI scan costs $1,420 in the U.S., but around $450 in the United Kingdom.

The report details just more examples of how broken the U.S. health care system is. Medicare for All would set procedure and drug costs in line with most other countries and move away from per-treatment billing, relying instead on global budgets.


In a recent InsideSources column, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman explains how Medicare for All not only is affordable, it’s the only solution to our failed health care system.

Weissman detailed how about 25% of U.S. hospital spending is due to administrative costs and that U.S. medical practices spend more than four times the amount spent by our Canadian neighbors on handling payment.

He also outlines how Medicare for All would increase quality of care and ensure that no American goes without necessary treatment due to cost.

“It’s the current system that imposes rationing as a shocking one in three Americans skip care because of costs… the evidence is plain that, under the current system, we have the worst health indicators among rich countries, by far,” he wrote.

REMINDER: War? Or health care? As President Donald Trump escalates tensions with Iran, let’s recall how much money the U.S. government has spent on recent wars. America’s “War on Terror” cost about $6.4 trillion and killed over 800,000 people, for instance.

On the other hand, Medicare for All would impose no additional overall U.S. health care spending – and by some estimates would lower it by between $2 trillion and $5 trillion over 10 years – and ensure that no American dies from a lack of health care.

But which policy is more favorable to the Trump administration? One Twitter user said, referencing the prospect of war with Iran, “This is gonna cost like 3 Medicare For Alls.”

To speak with a Medicare for All policy expert, or if you have questions about Public Citizen’s work, please contact Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.