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One of the reasons our health care costs are so high…

… is because we refuse to standardize prices for treatment.  I think I have told this story before but here it is again.  My French lab partner’s husband had a hernia operation.  It was outpatient and he spent about 4 hours in the hospital, not even enough time to get his gourmet meal.  When she got the bill, it was for something like $70,000.  She’d never seen anything like it in her country so she called the insurance company, who told her there had indeed been a mistake.  The actual cost was something like $40,000.

For four hours, no overnight stay and an uncomplicated hernia operation on a healthy 30 something year old male.

Now, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has compiled a database that you can peruse to find out what treatment costs at various hospitals in your area.  In my state, you can pay up to $99,000 for treatment of COPD in Bayonne or cross the river into New York and pay a mere $7,044 for the same treatment.  The higher prices are sometimes due to the hospital making capital investments in new technology but it could very well be going to higher salaries for hospital executives and not staff.  Wouldn’t you like to know in advance where all that money is going?  I think it’s about time hospitals are forced to disclose this information up front.

And it’s more than time for hospitals, pharmacies and other third parties to stop taking advantage of asymmetric information about what they are paying and what they are charging.  Consumers don’t have time to continually check to make sure they’re not being swindled and governments have a responsibility to make sure we’re not being cheated.

That’s what we elect our representatives to do- to protect us from systemic exploitation.

 

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