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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.


15 Responses

  1. I’ve read several articles about the database but, I can’t tell…. are these amounts for the TOTAL cost of the procedures? All Doctors, Hospital Fees, All those extra bills that come in for weeks and months after we get something done in a hospital? Or are they JUST for the Hospitals portion of the bill?

    • Good question. I’m assuming it refers to accommodations, meals, medication while in the hospital, lab tests, respirators and other technology used.

  2. Local paper did a report on the differences in cost and the confusion that results. Too bad the Insurance Lobby $$$ was too big for Obama, Pelosi, and Reid to ignore and they shoved AHA up our collective butt.


  3. My significant other is in charge of finance and billing for a group of NY City surgeons. The hospital bill is about equal to the bill for the surgeon. No one pays full charge but depending on the insurance, reimbursement for the same surgery can vary between 4% and (in very few cases) 85%.

    Many of the best paying patients are wealthy people from other countries. They tend to be either very rich or very famous and often are both. After all, how many people can actually pay $100,000 plus to the doctor and $100,000 plus to the hospital.

    Some of these surgeries can last fourteeen hours and the patient will stay in the hospital for a week or more so it is not the equivalent of your lab partner’s husband.

    • People who DON’T HAVE insurance typically pay full cost. They don’t have negotiating power like the insurance co’s have.

  4. Stopping by to say Happy Mother’s day RD and our other Moms. :)!

  5. RD:
    Excellent topic to bring about, thanks.
    The cost of healthcare in USA is sinfully outrageous and hurting the country´s future.
    I myself am out of the country having a quantum molecular therapy on my spine and cervical for mere pennies.
    Keep at it.

  6. I can’t get anything from those web sites. If the government hopes to help people make better financial decisions, they need to develop a readable database.

  7. Jaysus, it’s outrageously expensive to throw anything away in New Jersey. It’s going to cost me several hundred dollars to get college hunks hauling junk to cart stuff away.
    And they’ll probably make a profit on it. I’ve tried Craigslist and making donations. Some of this is pretty nice second hand stuff. But I’m beginning to think all if nj has garages stuffed with things they can’t get rid of.
    I swear, nj will squeeze every last cent out of me before this is over.

  8. This ^ would have been REAL health care reform. This plus making it so that everyone pays the same rate….people WITHOUT insurance typically pay the full cost for services, while the insurance co’s drastically negotiate the cost with providers. People without insurance bear some of the burden of those who have it..

    Another reform would have been to give people a schedule of costs for services PRIOR to having work done. Make the hospitals give people an estimate. Make the insurance companies truly inform about what they will cover in advance of procedures.

    What we got instead is the mandate that we have to buy into this horrific system as it stands. It’s a travesty of epic proportions. It is criminal, and those involved are criminal.

  9. When we got our house in 1998, it was purchases “as is.” rather than hauling off the stuff the previous owner left it and we got rid of most of it. A few things were actually worth keeping.

    Among the items left behind (as we found out) were beer cans buried in the back yard because he didn’t want the neighbors to know about his drinking. Also (in the back yard, were defunct windows and a dead air conditioner.

    We slowly got rid of the stuff, mostly over the first six months.

    It’s the jerey way, I guess..

  10. Medical bill or SHAKE DOWN…good grief it seems as if they try to get what ever they can and if people don’t question you are lost. The uninsured get it worse, because it is on a cash bill basis.

    SINGLE PAYER…Public Option HR676.

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