The Right Questions

I love it when people ask the right questions. When it comes to big ticket items, like healthcare, the right kinds of questions can be really important. Now I’m not an expert on healthcare, or really anything for that matter. That may make me an especially promising candidate for punditry, but I don’t necessarily have the knowledge and perspective that comes from expertise to ask the right questions. Thankfully, others have.

Arron Carroll is a contributor to The Incidental Economist, a blog devoted to heath policy issues. Today he posted what amounts to an op-ed, “Do you really care about spending?” This is in regard to health care spending and this question strikes me as the type we should be asking about the policies we support. If spending more on something doesn’t produce better results, then why do we assume spending more is inherently good? Mr. Carroll asks this question through the lens of pharmaceutical drug prices.


This is a comparison of the drug prices for the 30 most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. As you can see, people in the US pay far more for those drugs than any other country. We pay twice as much for those drugs, on average, as the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, France, and New Zealand.

Think about that. The drugs don’t work any better here. The molecules in them are no different. You can’t argue this is about choice or freedom or formularies, since this is a comparison of the same drugs in each country. We just pay more for them. A lot more.


Do we like paying more just for giggles? I don’t know. Another good question is why – in a “free market” – are we paying so much more than everyone else in the world for the same exact pill?