Hospital charges uninsured cancer patient $1.50 for a 1.5 cent Tylenol

A tour de force article from Steven Brill over at TIME. Brill takes a long hard look at the way hospitals around the country are ripping patients off, and usually the patients least able to pay.

Charging $1.50 for a 1.5 cent generic Tylenol

I won’t quote Brill’s article at length, go read it. It’s unfuriating. He goes through the detailed hospital bills, line by line, or 7 different patients, in order to explore not only how much hospitals rip people off by charging patients $1.50 for a single generic Tylenol that costs 1.5 cents if you or I go buy it at a store. The hospital, buying such huge quantities, can surely get a much better price than that.

And if you only read one thing, read the intro to his story where he talks about the cancer patient and how the hospitals made him pay up front for his treatment, even when he was rushed to the hospital at one point – the hospital made him wait in the reception area for 90 minutes while they made sure his check cleared.  Animals.

Charging a woman $21,000 for heartburn

Brill also tells the tale of a woman who thought she was having a heart attack. She calls the ambulance, goes to the hospital, three hours later they say “no, just heartburn.” And bill her $21,000. Oh, and the woman has been out of work for a year and has no insurance.

$20,000 for a non-emergency appendicitis

Doctor via Shutterstock

Doctor via Shutterstock

A friend went to a local hospital here in DC for an appendectomy.  It wasn’t that much of an emergency, as the doctor told him he could come back the next morning for the operation.  Total cost?  $20,000.  And if you have “good” insurance that pays, say, 80% of that, you still pay $4,000.  When I told friend in Europe this story, about how much an appendicitis costs, they almost crapped their pants.  What do middle class people do when their child gets an appendicitis?  Who has $4,000, or probably much worse, to drop on a moment’s notice for something like this?

Only $35 for an emergency room visit in Paris

I also think of my retinal detachment surgery I had in Paris a few years back. I’d written about it extensively here.  Long story short: I arrived in Paris for my annual house-sitting for Chris, who writes on this site, while he and his wife go on vacation.  I noticed some serious floaters in my eye, and knew that this was a potential sign of a retinal tear (having had them in my family), so I went to a hospital and found out that I had a rather large tear.  They tried to cauterize it with a laser – a “painless” procedure that hurt about as much as you’d imagine a laser pointed at your eye would feel.  The cost of that treatment was $35 for the emergency room visit, and around $130 for the laser surgery.  Back home it would have been several hundred dollars for the emergency visit itself and then maybe a few grand for the laser surgery.

A week later I went back for my check-up – the doctors had grounded me anyway, so I stayed in France for my house-sitting – and we found that the laser didn’t work, my retina was detaching, and I had to have a scleral buckle put in my eye, a procedure they would do in the hospital operating room as in-patient surgery, under general anesthesia.  I immediately panicked, A) about my eye, B) about the cost.  Would my American insurance even cover me in France?  And how was I going to afford surgery and a hospital stay?

$26 a day for a hospital room in Paris

Well.  The hospital stay costs a whopping total o f 20 euros a day, or about $26 at today’s exchange rate.  And that’s expensive, you see, because the rate used to be 16 euros but the hospitals had to up it, and it caused quite the controversy in France, charging “so much” for an overnight stay in the hospital.

Retinal detachment: $2,000 in Paris; $20,000 in America

My surgery itself cost around 1,600 euros, or $2,000.  When I finally got back home, my American doctor told me the cost would have been a minimum of $20,000 in an American hospital.  And not because the quality of care was any better: I was at one of the top eye hospitals in the world in Paris.

Cataract surgery in America: $15,000 an eye

Our entire medical system in this country is obscene.  For my recent cataract surgery (yeah, I know, I’m young for cataracts – we have no idea why I got them), the hospital alone charged me $14,000 per eye just for their fee.  That didn’t include the doctor, the laser they used to cut my eye, etc.  Thank God I have pretty good insurance – well, it’s garbage for prescription coverage, but is “good” for major medical – so I “only” pay 10% of the cost.  But that meant I owed over $2,000 out of pocket for both procedures with “good” insurance.

And another thing.  That $14,000 the hospital charge me just for the hospital facility charge, Blue Cross knocked it down to around $5,000 as  I recall.  That’s the “non-allowed” line on your insurance bills that never quite make sense.  It’s the insurance company telling hospitals (or doctors) in their network that they’re only going to pay a certain amount for certain procedures, and the patient does not have to pay the difference.  So what that means is that hospitals and doctors are charging people who don’t have insurance a heck of a lot more than they charge people who do have insurance, for the same procedures.  That’s insane.

Advair: $82 in Paris; $358 at Costco in America

This is a particular pet peeve of mine: the way American pharmaceutical companies rape American consumers in order to provide artificially-subsidized low prices to Europeans for the same drugs.

Take Advair.  In Paris, I can buy Advair made by GlaxoSmithKline for 63 euros, or $82.  In America, I can buy the same drug, made by the same company, at Costco (cheapest I can get) for $358.  Yes, GlaxoSmithKline charges Americans 5.7 times more for Advair than what they charge the French.

Oh, but it gets better than that.

Price of Advair over time
                   Paris                           America
1999:           63 euros ($82)            $272.29
2012:           63 euros ($82)            $358.51

Yes, that’s right.  GlaxoSmithKline hiked the price 32% in the US and didn’t hike the price in France at all over the same period.

It’s one big den of thieves, the lot of them.

Health Care lobbyists spend more than 3x on lobbying than Defense contractors do

Want to know why things are so bad in the states with health care?  Here’s on big reason, from the TIME piece:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the pharmaceutical and health-care-product industries, combined with organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMOs, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington. That dwarfs the $1.53 billion spent by the defense and aerospace industries and the $1.3 billion spent by oil and gas interests over the same period. That’s right: the health-care-industrial complex spends more than three times what the military-industrial complex spends in Washington.

We’ll see next year if Obamacare, when it starts to truly be implemented, helps any of this.  But I’m not hopeful.  It may help with insurance prices.  Maybe.  But our system is a mess, and for a lot of us, who don’t have our parents’ cushy insurance and cushy retirement plans, it’s an increasingly scary place to be.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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59 Responses to “Hospital charges uninsured cancer patient $1.50 for a 1.5 cent Tylenol”

  1. guest says:

    capitalism is wealth/vs socialisn is provery,hum so we cant have insuranc but our tax dollars is paying for those who dont work,hum so now they sayfor a family of 5 its around 20,000.00,hum who can afford it oh i get the 2,000.00 fine from all who cant good tax money but if we get sick we die… mighty fine for the nsureanc that was a tax or a punishment.. good bye america .since my job went overseas i only make 8.75 per hour now… how can i afford house payment food gass and bill like power and water. control us slaves to the who. i thought it was affordable?work my butt off and those who sit on butt gets my insurance that i ahve bought over 40+ years… unbelieveable.scary isnt the word for it. i can hardly feed my family now just the two of us cant ever be able to get grandkids present or outings for ice cream now 2,000.00 fine but the glitch can’t get heart meds either. thank you for such truth no fines and no tax. not truthful at all.breech of promise to all of america…. thank you!!!

  2. ObamaCare is not the best solution, but unfortunately, thanks to Conservatives, it is the only possible solution in this country. We could have had a good single-payer system, but the Conservatives have managed to scare the entire country into believing a single payer system would be worse than an alien invasion. You are to blame for ObamaCare, not Liberals. It was the only option for a country with such a large percentage of complete morons.

  3. Sweetie says:

    This site continues to act like the health care “mandate” is some sort of win for the public. The Mafia would be proud. “You’ll love it because you’ll pay whether you want to or not!”

    I, for one, am so pleased that Obama lied to me and the rest of the public about supporting the public option after having made a secret deal to kill it.

  4. Sweetie says:

    I was told by a friend that a ring-shaped rash can sometimes be a spider bite. I had one on my leg and it went away so that was probably it. It did take quite a while to go away.

  5. Sweetie says:

    I have turned down physician requests for CT scans twice. I don’t need the radiation or the cost. I was actually told that an MRI would be better but the hospital didn’t have one so the CT was ordered as a substitute. Isn’t it nice to be exposed to unnecessary radiation simply for the hospital’s convenience?

  6. Sweetie says:

    Include the FDA and agricultural/chemical lobbies because they also make sure things like supplements aren’t tested and when a smidgen of testing is actually done (as when the FDA found and covered up evidence of mercury in HFCS), it takes a whistleblower to let the public know.

    If people eat polluted food then the medical industry makes more money.

  7. Sweetie says:

    Spinal fusion costs a LOT less in India.

  8. Howie says:

    Absolutely ridiculous. I understand a hospital needs to make ends meet, but there’s a point where we have to question things like this.

  9. I always said that healthcare reform is a good start, but your treatment during (and after) your treatment should also be good. The entire healthcare system in America needs a complete overhaul. I am a healthcare advocate and it is still a frustrating process for me to get the care that I and my family need and deserve. There is no reason that we should not be able to so comparison shopping like we do at grocery stores. We should be able to look at a price for an MRI at different facilities and be able to choose the cheaper price. There are pros and cons to this, of course, because of the supply-and-demand concept, but something really needs to be done about the prices of healthcare services.

  10. jeanocelot says:

    I say implement confiscatory taxes on the wealthy to fund Medicare for all, including emergency treatment for visitors, be they legal or illegal.

  11. rmthunter says:

    Another thought — the county hospital system in Cook County (IL) is pretty good. The doctors, at least in my experience, are excellent, and they offer financial assistance. I went through I don’t even want to guess how many thousands of dollars of radiation therapy for free, and was billed for follow-up visits and blood tests at 5% — when they bothered to bill me at all. If they give you a prescription, you can fill it at the dispensary there for $3 — that’s it, a flat $3 per, no matter what it is.

    Unfortunately, the administration is kind of a mess, but if you can get past that, it’s an excellent system. Just the kind of thing the health care establishment hates.

  12. rmthunter says:

    I got off fairly easily — I was only charged $.11 for an aspirin. Of course, why they bothered to charge at all for that amount, I have no idea.

    One interesting thing I noticed while reviewing the bills from a hospital stay with pneumonia a few years back. The total bill was $11,400. I had insurance at the time, and the hospital immediately wrote off $8,500, I assume per their agreement with the insurer. The insurance company wound up paying $1,700, with me stuck for $2,300. The conclusion: 1) racket; 2) effed-up mess.

    Oh, and if you’re contacted by a collection agency, demand proof that they have the authority to collect — chances are 50/50 you will never hear from them again. There’s a lot of scams out there, and your personal information is free for the asking.

  13. Over here in America we have something called lobbyists. Here’s how it works.

    !st, become filthy rich by hook or by crook.

    2nd, pay said lobbyist whatever it takes to bribe a US representative or senator contribute to his campaign enough so he/she can insert a loophole into the tax code favoring your company.

    3rd, voila, sit back and reap in the benefits usually 10,000 fold of your original bribe contribution

  14. lynchie says:

    Hillary would have changed nothing. She like her husband and all Dems and Repubs are bought and paid for.

  15. blue says:

    This is the same “poor tax” levied across the board: payday loans, rent-to-own, cashing check charges. It costs more to be poor. The poor are literally charged more in almost any situation.

  16. karmanot says:

    It’s because Hilary was the greater evil of two evils.

  17. karmanot says:

    The $500 was for the little container of orange juice afterward, so you wouldn’t faint in the lobby and sue the hospital.

  18. Here’s the worst story I’ve ever heard.

    There’s a drug given to pregnant women to keep them from miscarrying. It’s a “compounded” drug….a pharmacist with a bit of special training can mix it up from fairly cheap ingredients. It has to administered via injection every few weeks.

    The government was persuaded that only one company should be licensed to make this drug for “quality control.” The license was duly issued. The drug had previously cost $10 per injection. The company that had the exclusive license to make it, KV Pharmaceuticals, raised the price to $1,500. PER INJECTION. At an estimated cost of $30,000 per pregnancy.

    Keep in mind that this was not a drug this company had developed. There were no research costs to recoup. No expensive manufactering costs.

    Just pure, naked greed.

  19. If our medical prices were the same as paris, we wouldn’t need healthcare. This is what private, for profit healthcare does. It jacks up the prices to make insurance mandatory. This is why we need a single-payer system. This for-profit crap has absolutely destroyed our medical system.

  20. Well, you COULD cook the eggs yourself and save the charge, or just forgo eating breakfast altogether. Let’s see you do that with an emergency appendectomy.

  21. Jerry A says:

    Medicare takes fraud charges very seriously. Don’t just complain online, report this to the government!
    The only possible glitch is whether the first charge is for the doctor’s office, or for the doctor? If the doc’s office is classified as a part of the hospital, then the second charge might be technically legal (though unethical to us laymen). My son saw a specialist in a fancy hospital’s outpatient building. There were two charges and the separate “facility charge” was over $450. The facility just provided the space and a nurse who took his temp., weight, and height. Nothing more than his primary care doc does, but at 5x the cost.

  22. lynchie says:

    The other big scam is the not for profit hospital. Well they make billions and receive tax breaks of additional billions.

    locally in Pittsburgh we have UPMC which is non profit and they are doing ok

    the problem is the whole health system is based on profits (whether they pay taxes or not) and that leads to excess. You then encourage gouging because it is a closed system where else can you go.

    another great study recently showed the huge disparity in spinal surgery.

    There is no way the insurance company cares since they simply raise their rates or bill Medicare/Medicaid.

    My wife was being treated for cancer and the cost for chemo was $15,000 a week. After she died I got a bill from the hospital for 2 treatments that were denied by my insurance company. I inquired of the hospital when the treatments occurred. They told me in March, unfortunately she passed away the previous October. When I mentioned this i was asked “:are you sure”. We are powerless, no one checks at the insurance company. They money they make is staggering, we never see a detailed bill and the cycle keeps eating itself. As a country we have no hope until we go to a completely government run single payer system. Taking the obscene profit out of health care is why it will never happen in our lifetimes.

  23. karmanot says:

    When Mother Teresa opened her AIDS hospice, in SF she changed the bedding once a week to create an atmosphere of humilily and poverty just like the streets of Calcutta. After she and her cretin nun-girls killed off a half dozen happless homeless the city shut her down. There were no conversions to boot. Praise Jesus’ holy name.

  24. karmanot says:

    Or you can eat at the Plaza and spend $30.00 on a pot of tea. This stuff drives me crazy!

  25. karmanot says:

    Excellent health care, adequate housing and ‘food security’ is a right. I hope to live long enough to see Americans take it by force if necessary.

  26. karmanot says:

    Same story here. 4 ER visits, no insurance, but put me on the hook for 8K and threatened to COLLECT. It wiped out my life savings and only one month away from Medicare.

  27. Fifi says:

    Then you are billed for preparing the bill…

  28. War Blur says:

    This is my field, in a way: I work out settlements on large claims. Last year, I received a claim from a NJ hospital for an uncomplicated low-back fusion surgery, one that would typically cost about $60K. The bill was for $479K, though, and the hospital had signed a contract for a 15% discount. When I started to dig into it, I found that, for the implants (a handful of titanium screws and other stuff) the charge was $355K. I called to get specifics, then priced them out. The cost to the hospital for the implants was just under $24K. I called back, to see if there was some mistake, and was told that “to get our charge, we multiply our cost times 14.7392.” And then, they offered a fifteen percent discount. Normally, nobody will touch these if there’s “a contract in place” for a discount. In this case, they signed off on $185K for the visit – for a $60K procedure.

  29. BeccaM says:

    I’ve told this story before, about my wife’s eye situation, which was similar to John’s. We were living in India and she suffered a torn retina. Immediately we raced from where we were staying in to Bangalore, and went to one of their new ultra-modern “super specialty” hospitals.

    The entire course of treatment, including initial intake, diagnosis, laser surgery, and two follow-up exams cost us less than $40 US. The hired car actually cost more.

    Later on, based on recommendations from the eye surgeon, she also had cataract surgery, a somewhat more involved procedure and so it cost us a total of $1200, mainly because we went with imported lenses. Otherwise it would’ve been half that much.

    Some here in the comments have suggested the reason U.S. healthcare is so much more expensive is because we’re “paying for the facilities” or “paying for the doctors’ & nurses’ salaries.” Part of that is likely true, given the overbuilding of treatment facilities, but here it’s only the doctors who are getting paid well. British NHS doctors receive much more modest salaries. But the average general practitioner in the U.S. isn’t doing all that great either.

    Where that money is all going is into profit. And for-profit medicine didn’t really kick in until Nixon pushed to allow these newfangled business models called HMOs. Which then later spread into an alphabet soup of PPNs and PPAs and other ways to impose monopolistic practices on medicine. In every country with better results at lower cost than in America, the reason is either the abundance of non-profit (or taxpayer provided) medicine or else the strict regulation of profits, products, and fees.

    It isn’t just a $1.50 Tylenol pill — that’s merely an illustrative example, because those hospital bills will be crammed full of ridiculous charges, not just that one. There literally is no way an examination, a few tests, and a diagnosis of indigestion cost that hospital $20,000 in expended labor and materials. NO WAY. Until we wake up and realize we’re being rogered repeatedly and systematically, not just on medical treatment, but on a whole host of other monopolized industries — mobile communications, broadband and media, college and textbooks, even our basic utilities — the screws are only going to keep getting tighter.

  30. Naja pallida says:

    Usually when you are billed, you are billed separately for the medications and the services to provide those medications, and then an additional fee for disposal of the packaging the pill came in…

  31. Naja pallida says:

    It’s all part of the racket, but insurance companies set the rates they are willing to pay. If insurance companies decided that they wouldn’t pay above the actual value of a product or service, health care costs would plummet… but then that wouldn’t allow for such large overhead that they can skim off for profit.

  32. Naja pallida says:

    Around here it’s about $600 for a CT scan for someone without insurance. With insurance, it’s about $2500 and the patient pays whatever remainder the insurance company doesn’t want to – which varies by plan, of course.

  33. Naja pallida says:

    I just love how they never ever bring up the issues of payment. Every hospital has these amazing doctors who put their own life on hold, and even their jobs on the line, while they try to treat a patient… bears no resemblance to reality. When was the last time you heard of a health care provider in the US going above and beyond for a patient?

  34. Naja pallida says:

    The entire health care industry in the United States is nothing but a racket. From the providers right up to the product manufacturers, but driven primarily by the insurance industry. They set the pay scales for their own profit concerns, which ends up screwing everyone up and down the chain, so they all try to get in on it.

  35. Naja pallida says:

    I’ve run into similar situations. It seems that people categorize a doctor as “good” if they are a nice person, and has nothing to do with whether they are actually a capable physician. At least he was willing to admit he was stumped, instead of wasting your time and money by throwing whatever he could at it whether he thought it would be helpful or not. I’ve come across far too many doctors that are happy to do pointless tests and throw prescriptions at you, without ever bothering to determine an underlying cause for your condition. Though, at the very least, one would have thought that he would have given you a referral to see a dermatologist.

  36. Naja pallida says:

    Wait until it’s some special way of preparing the bacon and eggs. If the chef put ‘molecular gastronomy’ on the menu, he could charge 60 bucks for it. And people with more money than sense would pay for it. I get that you’re paying for the convenience of having someone prepare a meal for you, and bring it to your table, but it is rare that I ever enjoy a restaurant dining experience, even though I’m forced to do it all the time while traveling. Just seems that so many places are happy to gouge customers for mediocre, at best, food. Maybe I’m just not easily impressed. :)

  37. Ninong says:

    Haha! You’re right about that! I was admitted through the Emergency Dept back in 2011. My primary care physician (PCP) arrived in the morning to check me out and tell them to admit me ($600.00 for hospital evaluation and consultation — took 15 minutes). My pain management specialist showed up and charged $585.00 for the same — took 10 minutes). My PCP visited me three times for about 3 minutes each time at $185 a pop. My pain management specialist did not visit me but instead he had one of junior associates (another MD) visit me four times at about $185 a pop, but on the billing statement it says the visits were made by my pain management specialist himself, not the young rookie MD.

    About six weeks later I received a bill from the hospital telling me that I owed them $3,600 for the room for five days! WTF? That should be covered by my insurance (no longer Medicare because I switched to a Medicare Advantage provider). I should just owe them my per day co-pay at $50/day. I had to write letters back and forth for the next five months appealing and then appealing the denial of the previous appeal. Finally they dropped the issue… I think!

    I found out later through someone who works in my PCP’s billing office that the hospital forgot to call for advance authorization from the insurance company before admitting me. In fact, they didn’t call until after I was in there for three days. The insurance company decided the codes didn’t match what Medicare covers for in-stay hosp. So they decided to pay for all of the expensive procedures and pay for all of the doctors (6 of them!!!) except for my PCP who admitted me. (I still owe him more than $1,200 but his office has never bugged me about that at all, it’s just on my account… still. They told me not to worry about it.)

  38. Ninong says:

    Where in the world did you get a CT scan for only $500???

  39. Ninong says:

    Here’s a typical experience from 2002. I use this one because it’s the most absurd out of my many ridiculous experiences with U.S. hospitals. The medical staff at a large research hospital misdiagnosed an eye problem. After six months, three MRI’s, one CT scan and an absurd amount of the wrong medication, they finally decided to do exploratory surgery. They discovered the problem and fixed it in surgery.

    My Medicare coverage began shortly after my first few visits, so most of the expenses were covered by Medicare, just not the first couple of visits and the first MRI. They charge you through the nose for those! The bills didn’t start rolling in until weeks after the visits. I was receiving separate statements from the doctors and the hospital — strange since the doctors were on the staff and not independent. The hospital’s statement for services had absolutely no details whatsoever, just a total balance due for services rendered on a particular date.

    I noticed that I was getting a different account number for each different date I had anything at all done at the hospital, whereas the doctors were all billed on the same statement with the same account number no matter how many different dates were involved. Because of waiting for Medicare reimbursement, the bills dragged on for weeks, even months. Finally, I went down to the hospital billing office in person to try to find out what was included in the thousands of dollars they claimed I owed them. Here’s where it gets totally absurd. I had to wait more than an hour to see a customer service rep to discuss my bill. Turned out she could only help me with the doctors’ statements, not the hospital’s statements. She said I would have to go across the hall to that other office to talk to them about the hospital’s statements.

    I waited another two hours to talk to someone about the hospital’s statements. Turned out I had 17 different accounts!!! That’s because they open a new account for every different date services are provided! She printed out detailed statements for me for all 17 accounts. I left with more than 60 pages of ridiculous charges, most of which were explained only in numerical codes (hospital codes). By checking my personal desk calendar, I could recall exactly what had been done on each of those dates. I discovered, for example, that they had charged twice for the same MRI (at more than $5,000 each) and that every time they did an MRI of the brain and orbits, that counted as two separate MRI’s (total more than $8,000), including $250 each for the contrast injections. They did the brain, then the orbits, then pulled me out to inject contrast, then did both of them again with contrast.

    In other words, they injected contrast only once but charged twice ($500 instead of $250). I called Medicare to complain. Good luck if you ever try to do that! The lady at Medicare promised to get the double charge for the same MRI removed (and she did, after a couple of weeks) but she explained to me that Medicare rules allow them to charge for the contrast twice because the brain and the orbits were two different procedures and each was done without and then with contrast. It didn’t matter that they were done at the same time and that only one contrast injection was used. Oh, well… at least I was paying only 20% and they were paying the rest. And they did knock all of the hospital’s original charges down by about 50% to begin with.

    So if you ever call Medicare, don’t expect them to get all worked up when you tell them the hospital is screwing them (and you) because they don’t. They just take it in stride and tell you that’s what’s allowed.

  40. nicho says:

    Actually, the hospitals run by churches and other charitable groups have gotten scarcer and scarcer. When medicine turned “for profit” in the ’70s, the public and charitable hospitals began disappearing. It may still be called “St. Hermione,” but it’s probably owned, or at least run, by a health-care corp., which makes all the profit. Church groups are not getting rich off their hospitals.

  41. Hah, yeah :p I’ve never had much patience with medical dramas myself. Well, I did watch “House” for a bit because I enjoyed watching Hugh Laurie be a dick to everybody, but even then I never imagined the show was ever very correct.

  42. silas1898 says:

    The TV medical shows have very little resemblance to reality.
    My favorite is the spacious private rooms with the art on the walls. Ha!

  43. loona_c says:

    What’s really offensive is that an uninsured patient gets charged full and I mean FULL prices whereas someone with insurance gets discounted rates that insurance has negotiated. That just seems so backwards. The uninsured should be getting discounted rates! Or some kind of assistance.

  44. gaylib says:

    And I actually have decent insurance. Without it I would have had to pay $2500. Plus now my doctor (the same one who misdiagnosed me) saw an “anomaly” and wants me rescreened in 6 months. She’s sure it’s nothing though! So it’s either pay up or play Russian roulette with my life. I’m probably being scammed, but hey who wants to play those odds. They’ve really got me over a barrel.

  45. gaylib says:

    I got to pay $500 for a useless CT scan because my doctor wrongly diagnosed me with appendicitis! I actually had gas. Fun!

  46. nicho says:

    I was in a hotel the other week. In their restaurant, they wanted $18 for two eggs and some bacon that I could buy at Trader Joe’s for under a dollar.

  47. microdot says:

    Man, my wife just had reconstructive surgery on her foot in Le Clinique Des Cedres in Brive-la-Gaillarde. We have a Mutual de Perigord policy and pay perhaps 30 Euros a month. She had taxi service to and from the hospital, we live in a fairly rural area about 1 hour from Brive. I tried to find out the cost of this type of surgery in The USA….it was off the books…In fact, American insurance companies classify it as cosmetic surgery. One month later, the surgery is success, and our cost out of pocket was perhaps 600 Euros, most of which will be refunded. I lived through the hell of American Health Care, frankly, it destroyed my family when I was growing up. My mother died from MS. Taking care of her killed my father. He worked for Chrysler and had insurance, but he died in debt….they were still trying to get money out of me 12 years later to pay up…I was literally an impoverished street kid who managed to go to college on Pell Grants….and I was still getting tracked down by collection agencies to pay for my mother’s hospitalization! I have the best doctor, the best dentist…I pay out of pocket 2 Euros for a dental visit or a doctors appointment. I suffer from chronic asthma and take a few medications to control it…I have no idea what I would be paying in the States….but, my meds cost about 120 Euros out of pocket a year, and most of that is reimbursed. I am not a wealthy man…I am actually dirt poor, but living in Europe gives me a dignity I could never have in the USA… Decent Health Care is not a privilege, it is your right!

  48. hollywoodstein says:

    When you go to a hospital, you are going to exhibit B of our Casino. They are the reason Obama beat Hillz.

  49. bkmn says:

    Don’t forget that many of the hospitals are owned by churches (St. Lukes, St. Mary’s, etc) and the money they drag in goes right to the top of the church’s balance sheet.

    Just as Catholic Charities and adoptions, they are in it to make money, not to make life better for someone.

  50. hollywoodstein says:

    The pill is an effect not the cause.

  51. hollywoodstein says:

    focusing on the pill for 1.50 is like focusing on the 10 bottle of beer in the model bar.
    Hint its not the fact you are buying a ten dollar bottle of beer.
    It is the fact you are drinking in a model bar.
    Americans should not be drinking in a model bar for their healthcare.
    Focus not on the pill, but on the million dollar administrators, and the insurance industry.

  52. HolyMoly says:

    One other thing that I think needs to be looked at, which my mother told me about recently.

    She has been seeing the same family doctor for some time now, and his office is a family practice/urgent care type place that is owned by the major hospital chain in the area. She and all other Medicare patients have recently received letters from the doctor’s office notifying them that they will receive to statements from the Dr.’s office instead of the one they had received for visits in the past.

    What happens is this: The Dr.’s office charges you for the visit, which is understandable. You see the doc, you pay for it (not that I agree with the price, but the charge in general I understand). The CRIMINAL part of it is that they charge you for use of facility, which would be understandable too, but for one thing: The facility they charge you for using is the nearby HOSPITAL, a place in which you never set foot. They can charge more for use of an ER facility than they can use of a family practice. That’s the second statement they receive now. This new charge is promptly sent to Medicare, who pays it out, and it’s been okayed on the Medicare end that this practice takes place.

    Mom’s doc was visibly pissed, she said, when she told him that what they’re doing amounts to stealing. It seems that whoever’s at the Medicare office is complicit, and it’s something that needs to be looked into and stopped.

  53. Drew2u says:

    So I got a weird rash on my arm, thinking it was ringworm, I treated it as such. Weeks later it hasn’t gone away and seems to be spreading on my arms, legs, and possibly ears and my side.

    I finally call the doctor, setting up the appointment, the receptionist says, “Oh, you’ll like [this doctor].”

    I’m thinking, “Great! Someone who knows what they’re doing and can help me get rid of this thing. I’m afraid I’m going to be contagious to other people.”

    I get there and the receptionist (don’t know if it was the same lady or not), reiterates: “Oh, you’ll like [this doctor]. He’s good.”

    So I go in to see the doctor, he takes a look at it, asks me what I’ve been doing and I tell him. He looks at me and says, I shit you not, “Well, I’m stumped!”

    He then goes to say what treatment he’d recommend, and I’m waiting for him to write out a prescription.

    He ends with, “Well, looks like you got this figured out. See you!”

    $35 up-front, wasted, now I wait to see what I owe for the visit only to get: “Hell if I know” as an answer from a “Good” doctor.

  54. It’s anecdotes like this–and I’m sure that many of us have experienced similar outrages–that make me wonder whether the people who scream the loudest about the evils of “socialized medicine” have ever in their lives had to deal with insurance policies or hospital visits or serious illnesses of any sort.

    How do they think the current system actually works? They make it sound like the merest government regulation of health insurers will lead to waiting ten years to see a doctor that the government chooses for you and baleful HHS bureaucrats deciding who lives and who dies. Which is worse than how it actually works today…how?

    I’ve said it before but sometimes I think that the folks who rave about how America has the best medical care in the world have never actually had to deal with it in any way, so they’re free to imagine some gauzy fantasy where anyone at any time can go visit their kindly grey-haired family doctor out of a Norman Rockwell who will then bring in teams of selfless professionals out of “House M.D.” who will stop at nothing to cure you. It’s rubbish!

  55. HolyMoly says:

    The docs in the hospital barely ever see you…literally a minute or two when you first arrive and that’s about it. Yet they charge as if they sat by your bedside and held your hand the entire time you were there. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

    ERs love to do another thing which I think is criminal: Even though it’s only about 8 p.m. and the nurse tells you that the doctor is about to release you, it doesn’t happen until 12:01 a.m. which means you will be charged for an overnight stay.

  56. UncleBucky says:

    John. Yep, now reading this, in perfect health a few minutes ago, I am now sick to my stomach. And if I were to go to my doc they would run about $4000 worth of tests, hahaha. No, really. I have a pounding headache. Nothing I ate. Or wait, maybe I can have a stomach test for the toast and coffee. That’d be about $950. Meh. US Health Care.

  57. UncleBucky says:

    True, but if you consider all the nickel and diming and the fact that it would not be ONE tylenol or even a buck fifty for the usual two that you need, but for days of meds, supplies and so on above the price of the room and doctor visits. Yes, even if a doc looks at your chart, THAT’s a visit.

    The big question is when a hospital takes in all this, where does the money go? Ohh, nice buildings, glass, sculptures, carpeting, pictures on the wall, and of course… well paid CEOs and other C-level people. And docs who have to pay malpractice insurance because of ambulance chasers and crooked insurers. Meh. Now I have a headache.

  58. loona_c says:

    There are upcharges I don’t mind/or do understand. You are not being charged $1.50 for the pill, but also for the nurse that delivers it. But overall medical expense have gotten beyond ridiculous.

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