Bitter Pill: Health Care Costs.

Time Magazine’s online version of Bitter Pill (click on it to read) is eye opening for the level of detail it gives about health care costs.

I know a fair amount about healthcare costs, but I admit I had never heard of a document called a chargemaster.  Evidently every hospital has one of these and they don’t have any consistency between hospitals.  The chargemaster gives you the sticker price of the costs, and again -who knew- you are supposed to negotiate the price of the service from there.  Haggling in the hospital, I would never have guessed.

I remember my auto mechanic had a chargemaster of sorts.  It was a big binder that listed the reasonable rates for services.  But it was a regional register, not something that varied from mechanic to mechanic.

Along the way in the article we touch on things I already knew.  Research costs do not even touch pharmaceutical profit margins, and pharmaceutical costs in the U.S. are twice what they are elsewhere in the world.  But I didn’t realize that medicare is forced to pay U.S. market prices for drugs.  Everywhere else they can take massive deductions, but drug profits are off limits?

I think the most dramatic thing the article does is walk us through the terror and heartache that families face when suffering from cancer or life threatening illness.  These are people at their most vulnerable, and we are allowing them to be bankrupted as their loved ones die.  Surely that cannot be a good thing.

The majority of these people have insurance, and their last recourse is to declare bankruptcy.  I think the statistic is 75% of those declaring bankruptcy for medical expenses had health insurance.

I’m left with the sense of being blessed that my family has been either healthy or insured thus far.  But the cost of that insurance keeps rising and soon it will be mandatory, not a choice.  So let’s do something about the situation that makes sense.


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