Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why are Americans Getting So Little in Return for the Highest Medical Bills on the Planet?

By Dr. Mercola

    Americans spend twice as much on health care per capita than any other
country in the world; in fact according to a series of studies by the
consulting firm McKinsey & Co, the US spends more on health care than the
next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K.,
Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain, and Australia.

    Despite that, we rank dead last in terms of quality of care among
industrialized countries, and Americans are far sicker and live shorter lives
than people in other nations. How is that possible? The short answer is:

We’re being fleeced.

    In the video above, CNN interviews a family blindsided by medical bills
amounting to more than $474,000 after 60-year-old Bob Weinkoff spent just a
few days in the ICU, suffering from difficulty breathing.

    According to a 2011 report by the global consulting firm Milliman, annual
healthcare costs for the average American family of four, if covered by a
preferred provider organization, is a staggering $19,393.1

    Between 2002 and 2011 alone, the average cost of health care for American
families doubled, and since absolutely nothing is being done to rein in the
absurd overcharges, there’s every reason to believe costs will continue to
skyrocket until the bottom falls out.

    Cancer treatments, in particular, have increasingly become exorbitantly
expensive, even though no one can explain exactly why it has to cost upwards
of $1 million.

    By dissecting the medical bills people have received, journalist and
author Steven Brill says we can see exactly how and why we are overspending
and where the money is going.

Bitter Pill – The Absurd Costs of American Health Care

    In a recent Time Magazine interview,2 Brill discussed his very impressive
11-page cover story, Bitter Pill:3 This is one of the longer investigative
pieces and thankfully Time made it available for free.

        “Simple lab work done during a few days in the hospital can cost more
than a car. A trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be
indigestion brings a bill that can exceed the price of a semester at college.

When we debate health care policy in America, we seem to jump right to the
issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first
question: Why exactly are the bills so high?”

    In his article, Brill gives numerous examples of shocking markups on many
hospital charges, such as $1.50 for a generic acetaminophen tablet, when you
can buy an entire bottle of 100 tablets for that amount, $18 per Accu-chek
diabetes test strip that you can purchase for about 55 cents apiece, or

$283.00 for a simple chest X-ray, for which the hospital routinely gets

$20.44 for when it treats a Medicare patient.

    Most need to know that going to the ER can bankrupt you if you don’t have
insurance. One example given in his article was a school bus driver who
slipped and fell on her face and went to the ER. Three CT scans cost her
nearly $7,000. She was just short of qualifying for Medicare and wound up
being billed the full charge, for which Medicare would have only paid $825.

But since she didn’t have Medicare, she got the FULL bill.

    Even with insurance you can be decimated. The featured story reviews a
man in his 50s who had insurance, developed pneumonia and was hospitalized
for one month and came out with a nearly $500,000 bill. After insurance
coverage, their bill was still over $400,000. This was in part due to the
hospital’s policy of not just double billing for items but TRIPLE billing.

Lab tests are another large cost and hospitals generate over 70 BILLION
dollars every year from this service, while the largest lab tester in the
country, Quest Diagnostics, only generates ONE TENTH of those charges, and
they most likely do far more tests.

    As an example, according to Stamford Hospital’s latest expense report,
which each hospital is required to file with the federal Department of Health
and Human Services, the hospital’s total expenses for lab work in 2010 were
$27.5 million. Its total charges were $293.2 million, meaning it charged
patients about 11 times its costs for lab work.


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