Most Expensive Healthcare In The World


I was glad to see this story discussed on today’s “Morning Joe.” Interestingly, their healthcare “specialist” was a doctor who had until recently practiced at California Pacific Medical Center — the facility called out in the Times piece for gross upcharges. Her rationalization? It’s expensive to operate a hospital in California because of earthquake retrofitting!

Blaming earthquake retrofitting for an $18 aspirin? Um, no.


This is how folks like the Frist family got rich:

A day spent as an inpatient at an American hospital costs on average more than $4,000, five times the charge in many other developed countries, according to the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health insurance industries. The most expensive hospitals charge more than $12,500 a day. And at many of them, including California Pacific Medical Center, emergency rooms are profit centers. That is why one of the simplest and oldest medical procedures — closing a wound with a needle and thread — typically leads to bills of at least $1,500 and often much more.

Just three stitches cost $2,229.11? Sealing a wound with skin glue, for $1,696? This is a national disgrace. In all of the haranguing about healthcare, little attention has been paid to the actual cost of simple procedures like this. When Republicans go on TV and tell everyone that we do have universal healthcare — at emergency rooms — and you see hospitals turning their ERs into “profit centers,” you’ve gotta wonder what the hell is going on. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times: where there’s shit there’s always flies.

This is a fascinating story, one which shouldn’t be relegated to the inner depths of the health section of the newspaper, but should be on the front page and topic one on every cable news show. The fact that we’ve barely discussed why everything costs so damn much in American hospitals is very telling. By all means, let’s continue to “debate” phantoms like death panels and socialized medicine while the real issues go ignored.

Even as the cost of Obamacare plummets, much to the GOP’s dismay, our for-profit hospitals continue to fleece the American people with stuff like $2,000 stitches, while the rest of the developed world gets their bumps and scrapes taken care of without breaking the bank. Hell, maybe we all need to take basic First Aid classes and just do this shit ourselves at home.

This is something we can change, easily. All we need is the political will. There is no reason for us to pay more for this stuff except the greed of the healthcare sector:

The main reason for high hospital costs in the United States, economists say, is fiscal, not medical: Hospitals are the most powerful players in a health care system that has little or no price regulation in the private market.

Rising costs of drugs, medical equipment and other services, and fees from layers of middlemen, play a significant role in escalating hospital bills, of course. But just as important is that mergers and consolidation have resulted in a couple of hospital chains — like Partners in Boston, or Banner in Phoenix — dominating many parts of the country, allowing them to command high prices from insurers and employers.

Sutter Health, California Pacific Medical Center’s parent company, operates more than two dozen community hospitals in Northern California, almost all in middle-class or high-income neighborhoods. Its clout has helped California Pacific Medical Center, the state’s largest private nonprofit hospital, also earn the highest net income in California. Prices for many of the procedures at the San Francisco hospital are among the top 20 percent in the country, according to a New York Times analysis of data released by the federal government.

“Sutter is a leader — a pioneer — in figuring out how to amass market power to raise prices and decrease competition,” said Glenn Melnick, a professor of health economics at the University of Southern California. “How do hospitals set prices? They set prices to maximize revenue, and they raise prices as much as they can — all the research supports that.”

Couple this with the vast amounts of cash pouring in to steal our elections and it’s easy to see why this country has been torn apart over a Libertarian, market-based, modest regulating of the healthcare markets.

Anyway, follow the link and give the article a read. It may raise your blood pressure, but if it leads to action, that’s a good thing.


Filed under healthcare

7 responses to “Most Expensive Healthcare In The World

  1. That is sooooooo true. When I was 7, I tripped and accidentally pulled down the tablecloth and the hot cup of coffee. It fell on my neck and torso. My parents panicked and rushed me to the ER. I don’t know what emergency medical proceedings I got, ( I remember the area was covered with bandages ), Later, we got a bill for that…. $ 2,200…. that was in ’97.

  2. Kosh III

    Off topic but…..
    Today’s Tennessean page A-5 has a story about a woman shot and killed because she was insufficiently upset over Alabama’s loss to Auburn.

  3. Mike G

    I used to work in a California hospital. The billing charge I remember was $6 for two aspirin. Yet we lost money because over a third of billings could not be collected; some was by choice for charity cases but mostly from people without insurance who could not pay. Universal coverage would remove a lot of the justification for jackpot pricing.
    The other part of the equation is the oligopoly/monopoly situation of many hospitals. The facility I worked in was bought by the other hospital in town after some dirty dealings by our management, closed down and turned into condos. There is now one monopoly hospital within 40 miles and they charge accordingly.

  4. GregH

    When I was on student exchange in Germany (28 years ago), there was a mandated health insurance and I was required by the University to show proof of insurance before enrolling. It cost me DM 25 a month (about 20 bucks). One of my fellow exchange students had to have an emergency appendectomy and didn’t pay anything out of pocket. Granted she was in a ward with 4 other patients, but she recovered just fine. That’s what a government-mandated private health insurance program (like ACA) can provide: Good care – dirt-cheap. This is what the healthcare industry fears.

  5. Anniemouse

    This past summer, my kid called from summer camp because he was sick. Turns out he was the sickest I’ve ever seen a human being get. We managed to get him into his pediatrician (first visit in five years because they’ve always had a 6 – 8 week wait for an appointment). We paid our $60 co-pay. We sat in the waiting room for 2.5 hours (one other patient with us). We saw a doctor for all of five minutes, who says there’s no fever so there’s nothing he can do. Next day child develops a 105 fever and goes to a doc-in-a-box, who run tests and send child home with meds. Seven months later, we get a letter from the first doctor’s billing office, threatening to send us to a collections agency over $3.25 we still owed (and were never notified that we owed). That’s three dollars and twenty-five cents, after the $60 co-pay. The insurance company paid $180 for that appointment, we paid $60, and the doctor’s office felt they were owed another $3.25…for what? Five minutes and “yeah, can’t help you.” Best health care in the world? I don’t think so.

  6. Bitter Scribe

    It seems like most hospital names in the Chicago area start with either “Advocate” or “Resurrection.” Both Catholic institutions IIRC, which makes it really fun if you’re a rape victim, you get taken there and ask for anti-pregnancy meds.