Hospital Billing Varies Wildly….

SurgeonA hospital in Livingston, N.J., charged $70,712 on average to implant a pacemaker, while a hospital in nearby Rahway, N.J., charged $101,945.In Saint Augustine, Fla., one hospital typically billed nearly $40,000 to remove a gallbladder using minimally invasive surgery, while one in Orange Park, Fla., charged $91,000.

In one hospital in Dallas, the average bill for treating simple pneumonia was $14,610, while another there charged over $38,000…

Source: Hospital Billing Varies Wildly, U.S. Data Shows – NYTimes.com.

I must admit that I have been lazy in regard to studying and reporting on how hospitals are at least partially responsible for the runaway medical costs in our country…..

You might think that just because a hospital charges an amount for a procedure that they actually receive that payment. Fortunately that is not the case for single payer systems like Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans.  The article goes on to say:

Medicare does not actually pay the amount a hospital charges but instead uses a system of standardized payments to reimburse hospitals for treating specific conditions. Private insurers do not pay the full charge either, but negotiate payments with hospitals for specific treatments. Since many patients are covered by Medicare or have private insurance, they are not directly affected by what hospitals charge.

Experts say it is likely that the people who can afford it least — those with little or no insurance — are getting hit with extremely high hospitals bills that may bear little connection to the cost of treatment.

Now that I have been on Medicare for a couple of years now I have been exposed to these extreme differences.  I recently had an endoscopy for an esophagus problem and when I got the paperwork from Medicare I could see that the medical facility charged about $3,500 for the fifteen minute procedure but Medicare approved less than $700 of which they paid 80% and my Medigap coverage paid the other 20%.  Since I was on Medicare and knew that they paid the same to all facilities I did not shop around for the different costs for the procedure but if I had I probably would have encountered differences like shown in the article above.

If like so many on the radical right seem to wish, I had not had Medicare I’m sure I would have been billed and expected to pay the full amount. The sad fact about it is that those who can afford it the least are the ones who actually are charged the most simply because they have no power behind them.

The rest of the developed world is for the most part on a single payer system similar to Medicare. I know that the most famous doctors tend to migrate to the U.S. because of our extreme compensations but even that fact does not give us superior care to most other countries. In fact even with our ultra-expensive way of doing healthcare many other countries are ahead of us when it come to living longer and healthier. When will we ever learn this very basic fact??

I get the feeling that if lawn mowing services were run by hospital administrators I would be charged  $1,000 for every time they mowed my lawn. Too bad someone can’t come up with DIY pace makers.

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