An article outlining how unfair pricing is enriching hospitals and gouging patients.

Thinker in pain

The Uninsured Pay the Highest Costs

It also discussed the practice of hospitals buying up office practices so they can charge more for procedures done there.  We’ve discussed this topic recently here.

Diagnosis: Insufficient Outrage

By H. GILBERT WELCH

HANOVER, N.H. — RECENT revelations should lead those of us involved in America’s health care system to ask a hard question about our business: At what point does it become a crime?…

Medical care is intended to help people, not enrich providers. But the way prices are rising, it’s beginning to look less like help than like highway robbery. And the providers — hospitals, doctors, universities, pharmaceutical companies and device manufactures — are the ones benefiting.

A number of publications — including this one — have recently published big reports on the exorbitant cost of American health care. In March, Time magazine ran a cover story exposing outrageous hospital prices, from $108 for a tube of bacitracin — the ointment my mother put on the scrapes I got as a kid and that costs $5 at CVS — to $21,000 for a three-hour emergency room evaluation for chest pain caused by indigestion.

Of course, Medicare will have none of this — it sets its own prices. And private insurers negotiate discounts. So no one is actually charged these amounts.

Check that. The uninsured are. They are largely young and employed (albeit poorly) and have little education. So the biggest medical bills go to those least able to pay.

At what point does it become a crime?

 

H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, is an author of “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.”