More and more health care bills are over $1 million—and expensive drugs are playing a major role

Updated: Jul 19, 2018

An $80,000 prescription is ‘relatively common now,’ Sun Life Financial U.S.’s president says.

Million-dollar health care is on the rise — and expensive drugs are playing an important role.

The number of patients whose medical care cost at least a million dollars over the course of a year rose by nearly 90% between 2014 and 2017, according to a new report conducted by Sun Life. (Because the report was about Sun Life clients, it focuses on the highest-cost medical bills of individuals with health insurance through their jobs, often at large companies.)

Expensive injectable drugs, especially for rare diseases, are one factor that’s fueling the rise, according to the report.

In 2016, for example, total treatment costs for a patient with a severe swelling disorder were $6.7 million, the highest in a single year, according to Sun Life. Last year, total medical costs for an individual with a blood disorder came to $5 million.

“We’re seeing drug claims that can be in the millions of dollars,” Dan Fishbein, president of Sun Life Financial U.S. SLF, +0.00% told MarketWatch. “Most people don’t imagine getting an $80,000 prescription, but that’s relatively common now.”

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