UPDATE: There are an amazing number of personal stories with dollar-data in the comments. Please check them out. And thanks to all the commenters for sharing this information.
Another Quick Hits (a click-and-read), this time on the high cost of U.S. health care. This article in the New York Times explains the situation perfectly. The seed for the story is the price of a colonoscopy. Note first the variation in U.S. prices, then the prices in Europe and other (more) developed countries.
Elisabeth Rosenthal starts her story this way (my emphasis):
The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill
Colonoscopies Explain Why U.S. Leads the World in Health Expenditures
Deirdre Yapalater’s recent colonoscopy at a surgical center near her home here on Long Island went smoothly: she was whisked from pre-op to an operating room where a gastroenterologist, assisted by an anesthesiologist and a nurse, performed the routine cancer screening procedure in less than an hour. The test, which found nothing worrisome, racked up what is likely her most expensive medical bill of the year: $6,385.
That is fairly typical: in Keene, N.H., Matt Meyer’s colonoscopy was billed at $7,563.56. Maggie Christ of Chappaqua, N.Y., received $9,142.84 in bills for the procedure. In Durham, N.C., the charges for Curtiss Devereux came to $19,438, which included a polyp removal. While their insurers negotiated down the price, the final tab for each test was more than $3,500.
“Could that be right?” said Ms. Yapalater, stunned by charges on the statement on her dining room table. Although her insurer covered the procedure and she paid nothing, her health care costs still bite: Her premium payments jumped 10 percent last year, and rising co-payments and deductibles are straining the finances of her middle-class family, with its mission-style house in the suburbs and two S.U.V.’s parked outside. “You keep thinking it’s free,” she said. “We call it free, but of course it’s not.”
In many other developed countries, a basic colonoscopy costs just a few hundred dollars and certainly well under $1,000. That chasm in price helps explain why the United States is far and away the world leader in medical spending, even though numerous studies have concluded that Americans do not get better care.
The story is an eye-opener. There are a plenty of perps, including employer-provided health care and its built-in problems.
The article says this about the reasons for the high costs:
The high price paid for colonoscopies mostly results not from top-notch patient care, according to interviews with health care experts and economists, but from business plans seeking to maximize revenue; haggling between hospitals and insurers that have no relation to the actual costs of performing the procedure; and lobbying, marketing and turf battles among specialists that increase patient fees.
Please do click; please do read. It’s worth your time. The article is both stark and clear. When you have this conversation with your neighbors, you’ll be well armed.
Oh, and there’s this handy chart — perfect for taping to the refrigerator door.
As John has pointed out many times, it’s often cheaper to pay cash in Europe than to pay U.S. prices, even with “insurance.”
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