Healthcare Spending…

Source: Report: 1% of Americans paid 22% of health care costs in 2009 –

Just 1% of Americans accounted for 22% of health care costs in 2009, according to a federal report released Wednesday. That’s about $90,000 per person, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. residents spent $1.26 trillion that year on health care. Five percent accounted for 50% of health care costs, about $36,000 each, the report said.

What this report doesn’t come right out and say is that simply having major surgery puts you automatically in the top 5% of consumer spending  for that year and often in the top 1%.  I had a minor heart event about five years ago that cost about $40,000 so I was part of the “hogging” five percent who are driving up health care for the rest of the population that year.

Another thing this study does not say is that the top 1% and 5% are not the same people year over year but instead just those unfortunate ones who need a surgical procedure during that given time. It is not as if we could deport 1% of our population and therefore drive down out one fourth of our healthcare costs, but I imagine there are some politicians looking into that. (ha). They seem to be willing to shove just about anyone under the bus to drive down Medicare spending and eventually end the program itself. 🙂

I’m not against a doctor earning a good living. They do have to go through years of schooling and internships to get there. But the money some get for a one hour procedure is as outrageous as what some CEOs get for that same period of time!  My heart doctor got over $12,000 for the less than one hour in the cath lab for my heart work. Does he really need that much? My family doctor gets a couple hundred for the same period of time.  And of course us normal slobs in the shrinking middle class get less in three months than my heart doctor got in that one hour.

I’m not a super educated economist but figuring this our doesn’t seem like brain surgery (at $40,000/hour) to me. If you want to drive down healthcare costs we need to be looking closely at the operating room.  The other 98% of the time we spend in the healthcare system doesn’t amount to much compared to that brief time in that sterile room.  Maybe the answer to these high costs lies in the same place as making our cars. Let’s train robots to do all the operating room stuff and put some of these overpaid surgeons into family medicine where they are sorely needed (pun intended).

But what do I know….

One thought on “Healthcare Spending…

  1. I read an article last night about Medical Tourism, the term for having medical procedures done in foreign countries. Importantly, the accreditation organization that approves American health care facilities performs the same service in over 40 other countries, so we aren’t talking about a guy in a back room with a chisel.

    The cost differences are absurd. A heart bypass operation in the U.S. averages $144,000. In India it is $5,200. A gastric bypass in America is $33,000 vs. $12,000 in Costa Rica. Need a hip replaced? $50,000 buys you a new hip here, or you can spend $7,000 in India.

    The costs have nothing to do with the surgeon or his skills. It has to do with huge overhead, the need to cover costs that people without insurance don’t pay, and Americans’ demand for the latest and greatest, rather than what is both good and cost-effective.


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