Why American health care costs are so high (excellent video)

John Green explains why American health care costs are so high.


I’d never heard of this guy. He’s rather amazing. This video is only 7 minutes long. It swam by. I easily watched the entire thing (and it takes me a lot to watch something for 7 minutes on YouTube).

Watch this.

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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88 Responses to “Why American health care costs are so high (excellent video)”

  1. The_Fixer says:

    Yes, the insurance company penny-pinchers are the real “Death Panels”.

  2. karmanot says:

    OK Thanks :-)

  3. karmanot says:

    Yep!!!!! :-)

  4. karmanot says:

    Virginia Fox

  5. newbroom says:

    So, in summary: Unfettered capitalism, with no controls on pricing or
    monopolization of the market, leads to shitty, exorbitantly overpriced
    privatized social services, energy, oh, yeah, and representative government.

  6. rmthunter says:

    Um — the Republicans are still going after Medicare and Social Security. The only change is that now the president is helping them.

  7. 1jetpackangel says:

    John Green and his brother Hank are not only self-proclaimed nerds who love sharing knowledge with the world, but John writes young adult novels that are actually worth reading at any age that is able to comprehend them. He writes about real stuff and real feelings and it’s great. He also likes to drop in on random conversations on Tumblr.

  8. Shlomo Abrin says:

    Yeah, but don’t you realize how much character all that hard work produced? The indentured should have been grateful for their servitude. Just the other day a Republican was extolling the virtues of hunger with hard labor even for children! Never too early to instill those kind of morals, I say.

  9. lynchie says:

    Just as in Pennsylvania where I live. But they need to go to the web site and enroll and see what is offered. That is what my daughter turned up. The companies are vying for customers and she has 6 options besides UPMC and Highmark. Tell them to go on line October 1 they might be surprised.

  10. lynchie says:

    they are only words. guns kill words however don’t

  11. emjayay says:

    That’s why one of the parts of the deal making American health care so expensive is that every provider office needs staff to argue for hours with the insurer, and the insurer needs staff to argue back.

  12. emjayay says:

    In addition, there is a bit more expensive medical technology available than in the days when treatment involved bleeding and amputation without anesthesia.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’s a terrible system, not a piss poor system. It will drain hundreds of billions out pf patient care in into the pockets of the rich and the political prostitutes in both parties, who are, in all cases and without exception, the enemies of working people.

  14. emjayay says:

    Ships didn’t aim as well back in those days.

  15. emjayay says:

    Are you aware of Medicare?

  16. emjayay says:

    The insurance companies are now required to spend a certain percentage of the premiums on actual health care and have had to rebate millions so far. No more rejecting people for preexisting conditions. No more yearly limits on health care payment. Kids up to 26 already can continue on parent’s plan. Incentives for new payment structures, like per patient not per service. Subsized premiums on a sliding scale.

    So it’s a Rube Goldberg approach to the far simpler tax-based or other universal systems, with profits for insurers allowed. Far from ideal, but after 60 years of trying the best the Democrats could do at the time. A nice next step would be to do like the Swiss, with a similar system but no profits for insurance companies. Maybe in a few years after Republicans realize they really lost and accept reality they will calm down, like they did with Medicare and Social Security, other than periodic failed attacks over the years.

    Right now we’re watching the last gasp beyond the last minute endgame throes. Appalling, but there it is.

  17. Zorba says:

    In France. ;-)

  18. Jack says:

    Great video!

    I blame the health insurance providers. I’d like to see more price fairness and price transparency ( http://www.enwealthen.com/2013/09/3-steps-end-health-insurance-nightmare/ ).

    IMHO, that would go a long way towards simplifying the process and reducing costs.

  19. karmanot says:

    Thanks Lynchie but I’m under Medicare now. I was thinking of friends under 65, who live in states that won’t take the exchange.

  20. karmanot says:

    Don’t get me started on the wonders of Medicare drugs that can’t be had without a TAR and then are still unavailable.

  21. karmanot says:

    Where can you get really excellent croissants?

  22. cole3244 says:

    one word, capitalism, the cure, socialism, its not rocket science.

  23. BeccaM says:

    I try to stay within the ‘safe-for-work’ language…

  24. nicho says:

    I bribe John.

  25. lynchie says:

    That is not quite the term I would have used.

  26. lynchie says:

    Not sure. have you checked rates where you are? I will do a little research for you to see. What state do you live in and what state do you want to buy insurance?

  27. BeccaM says:

    So, in summary: Unfettered capitalism, with no controls on pricing or monopolization of the market, leads to shitty, exorbitantly overpriced healthcare.

    Even shorter: We’re all being massively gouged.

  28. BeccaM says:

    Commenting spam-bots are remarkably sophisticated, although obviously not all that good at communicating actual information.

  29. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’s called socialized medicine and it works, even in poor countries like Cuba.

  30. Indigo says:

    You’re very kind. I’ve been a recovering teenager since James Dean died. ;-)

  31. Whitewitch says:

    tee hee…

  32. nicho says:

    My doctor almost blew a gasket last week. He decided that I needed a test to monitor a medication I was on. He went to enter the order for the test into the computer and the computer told him that the insurance wouldn’t pay for it, because I had one test earlier in the year — despite the fact the drug is volatile and needs constant monitoring.

  33. karmanot says:

    It’s easier if you share with the kiddies and declare nap time.

  34. karmanot says:

    Yep, I had too many Alice Brownies and fell asleep on the playground sand pit.

  35. karmanot says:

    Is it possible under Obi Care to get insurance out of state?

  36. karmanot says:

    What is it now—four years into Obiwankanobi Care, and we still don’t know the whole story. Moral of the story: beware of Trojan horses eating your oats.

  37. karmanot says:

    I know, I know WW. It looked like hamburger to me.

  38. UncleBucky says:

    Then let the People do that negotiation. And while healthy people can think straight, let the sick people do that negotiation. I think more gizzards will be torn out of health care administrators that way.

    But then. Wait. The governments of the countries that have single payer universal represent the people in health care. Everything except cherry-picked negative anecdotes points to that.

  39. UncleBucky says:

    We need a healthcare industry GREED-ectomy.

  40. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obamacare is a law that extends the corporations ability to draw funds from medical care and into their pockets. People are ordered to buy it from lists of insurers in each state and those insurers will profit in the hundreds of billions.

    We need socialized medicine, medicare for all and we need to cut insurance companies out of the loop, criminalizing their profit gouging at the expense of working people.

    Time to replay “Sicko”.

  41. Naja pallida says:

    Yeah, but someone makes a shit-load of money, so it’s the good kind of treason.

  42. jared says:

    I left out some words: The conclusion that granting the government the authority to negotiate
    better prices *can actually work* presupposes that the government represents the people

  43. Naja pallida says:

    Medical decisions are no longer made by doctors, they’re made by the penny pushers at the insurance companies, or the accountants at hospitals. As soon as you’re over the alloted amount they somehow magically predetermine that should be the spending limit for any given condition or operation, that’s it. The rest is on you. It’s a ridiculous way to run a health care system. It doesn’t even make sense from a basic supply and demand economics standpoint, it’s just a scam, where money matters more than people.

  44. jared says:

    The conclusion that granting the government the authority to negotiate better prices presupposes that the government represents the people. There was once a time where the US gov’t seemed, at a minimum, to represent the people, however I see little evidence of that over the last 20-30 years. (and before you call me one of those anti-state freaks, note that I did not say government in general, but was referring to the current state of affairs in the US government.)

  45. Whitewitch says:

    Oh Indigo – I am a young pup next to you…only 59…Age is a fact and I must say how much I admire you – I would have put you at early 50’s just based on your attitude….

  46. Indigo says:

    Unmistakeably. He’s a speedy Mr. Wizard. I have no concept of your age but I’m 72 and aware of it. They say age is just a number but that’s because their bodies have not yet spoken up and said “slow down.” Age is, in fact, a fact.

  47. pappyvet says:

    grin !

  48. pappyvet says:

    A kinder form of bigotry

  49. dula says:

    Isn’t undermining the health of your nation, and therefore national security, for personal profit considered treason?

  50. lynchie says:

    You may be right, but in Pennsylvania our governor Corbett (on the take) won’t allow exchanges as in the rest of the country. She has not committed and is going to evaluate all plans.

  51. Whitewitch says:

    Ohh it didn’t look like Spam…guess I am getting simple in my old age.

  52. lynchie says:

    Plus the hospitals began offering insurance and operating as not for profit claiming the money was used by the hospitals for buildings etc. In Western Pa. we had UPMC and Highmark who offer the insurance (up to now and I have 6 options) and run all the hospitals so you are doubly screwed.

  53. lynchie says:

    In Canada we had the Hudson Bay Company who traded beads for furs from the natives both Indian and Eskimo.

  54. lynchie says:

    Are you calling them liars? You must be a socialist or worse a real liberal.

  55. pappyvet says:

    Loved it ! He put in logical,truthful terms what most of us have known all along. What is curious as well as maddening is that these facts are not hidden,they are not obscure. So then how could our officials in government who allegedly spend so much time studying this issue be so far off the mark? Gee,you don’t suppose it could be because they WANT to be.

  56. Moderator3 says:

    The comment to which you are trying to reply was marked spam, and has gone to the place for bad comments. Nicho must have replied before it went away.

  57. Whitewitch says:

    Nicho – how come you could reply to this comment and I can not?

    Not fair.

  58. Whitewitch says:

    Indigo – I think he is geared for the Younger Crowd (not to presume you are as old as I). I have noticed things move a lot faster in their world from Utube to tweets…I can not tweet…I simply can’t compress my thoughts to the limited characters…

  59. Whitewitch says:

    Treating the mentally ill is not co-effective – at least not to insurance companies. This is a battle I have struggled with for 30 years…back in the day it was NEVER covered….over the years it has improved…now I can have 14 appointments a year! Whoop!

  60. Whitewitch says:

    Sort of like the Prison system…now privately owned corporate profit centers.

  61. That does not appear to be an Obamacare site. Those sites aren’t online until October 1. However, she may be seeing better plans because of obamacare, the same way I wrote about the other day with my prescription drug coverage. Tell her to perhaps wait a few days until October 1 and check out the exchanges too.

  62. nicho says:

    Thank you for your service. ;-)

  63. ArthurH says:

    You might add that colonies started by British trading firms frequently used the services of indentured servants, folks who couldn’t pay their debts who worked many years paying off those debts (covered by the trading firm to the original person they owed) and the lowest rates. Some worked more than 20 years to get out of servitude. But the trading firms got very cheap labor. Kind of like the current policies of the Republican right.

  64. Whitewitch says:

    OMG John…yes OMG, I love this guy…this is the BEST ever video. I watched the whole thing and am sharing with my friends. He should be picked up by the President and shown as a public service announcement!!! Thank you for sharing! Love you too~

  65. ArthurH says:

    Another reason is that the health insurance people are penny wise and dollar foolish. I remember when my family’s doctor retired he lamented that the insurance firms had ruined practicing medicine for him. In earlier days, when Medicare specified that a patient should be out of the hospital in a certain number of days, he could phone the Medicare offices, explain why the patient needed a few extra days to recuperate, and in nearly all cases they’d grant the request as the doctor was seeing the patient first hand and knew his condition. But the insurance firms seldom if ever grant extensions. This usually resulted in the person not fully recuperated being sent home, having a relapse, and being readmitted. It was costing the insurance way more than if they listened to the on-site doctor. But the folks answering the calls from doctors earned bonuses on the basis of how they “saved” the company money but not granting extensions. The doctor also complained that he lost patients because the HMOs wouldn’t put him in their networks of approved physicians because he took the patients’ side too often and put their well-being ahead of the insurance firm’s profits.

  66. hoplite_i says:

    A big part of it is the salary, stock options, and other compensation for people like Steven J Helmsly. This one guy pulled in over a billion dollars in ten years, and really didn’t provide any healthcare to anybody.

  67. nicho says:

    Or that the Pilgrims were the first illegal immigrants and that the first thing they did was steal the natives’ winter supply of corn. They had a warrant that allowed them to live in Virginia, but they decided to settle in what is now Massachusetts instead. They first landed in Provincetown, but since T-Dance was over for the season, they decided to move on to Plymouth. They never met the natives in Ptown, but they found their winter corn supply and stole it.

  68. Drew2u says:

    Does the American History section cover America being founded by the largest corporation in existence at the time (Jamestown via the East India Trading Company) followed by the puritans/pilgrims who moved to the colonies because they couldn’t enact laws against dancing in England?

  69. Drew2u says:

    Funny, with the only 3 insurance companies in my area: Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, WPS, and Humana, only the Humana plans (10 out of 35) allow for any mental health coverage and that’s a 50% copay with 1-year waiting period.

  70. Higgs Boson says:

    Just FYI, this guy and his cohorts have a whole YouTube channel called CrashCourse, where he covers, well, a crap-ton of different subjects, all in the same style (and with the added benefit of animated interludes to help explain stuff). Every installment is roughly 8-10 minutes long and they’re as addictive as they are informative. I’ve been working my way through the American History and World History series, and I’m hooked. Also, while I don’t think there’s a *deliberately* progressive slant to the way they cover various subjects, reality does tend to have a well-known liberal bias and they don’t shy away from that either, with very little “teach the controversy” nonsense, which is refreshing. Anyway, if you liked this, it’s well worth checking out.

  71. lynchie says:

    Teaching first grade is grueling if you are not half lit. Their tiny screaming voices would make having a couple of bloody marys for breakfast a mandatory job requirement.

  72. nicho says:

    If you want an education on the cost of healthcare, apart from a seven-minute video, I recommend this site.


    It explodes a lot of the myths — such as the “high cost of malpractice insurance.” It explains where a lot of the money goes, which isn’t into your healthcare or into your doctor’s pocket.

  73. nicho says:

    A paragraph break here and there would have been nice.

  74. DrDignity says:

    Billions are spent per annum in the US on medically futile diagnostics, specialties, aggressive treatments, ICU stays, life & respiratory support during the last six months of natural life for those well past cures, remissions, reprieves from advanced age or dementia. With education & experience with classical disease processes like stage four cancers, end stage COPD or Alzheimer’s, astute clinicians know that death will arrive within six months because of consistent weight loss, changes in lab values like albumin & pre-albumin levels, malnutrition, more infections & more hospitalisations. However, with the fee for service scheme as practised in the US, the most money is made around the sick bed of the dying as these people need the most care. There are fewer honest medical goals to achieve in this subset except for relief of symptoms, doing no harm & advice & education about prognosis/diagnosis. However, those honest goals rarely occur. Instead, a dying person is thought of dishonestly as someone who will be cured & the treatment plans follow that he gets the everything of medical futility including CPR, life support, lengthy stays in ICU which in the US have become high tech hospices. In addition, dying people need to maximise their good days to connect with others, create memories & a legacy for their loved ones. Spending one’s last months pursuing medically futile cures & remissions rob them of their last good days, tortures & costs a great deal. Hospice in the US averages about 5-6 days till natural death. Hospice should be started six months in advance so as to maximise independence, comfort & control. The average daily cost for a bed in the ICU is about $10,000 per day, excluding diagnostics, meds, treatments, respiratory care, the constant parade of specialists & blood draws. The average daily cost of hospice at home begins at $150 & goes up as people need more care & nursing. Redefining hope at end of life includes being realistic about death & dying. How one chooses to die is personal. Pursuing medically futile cures involves much more than money, there’s a huge human cost that robs families of any sanity & control. Unfortunately in the US, the political discourse surrounding intelligent conversation around death & dying is a shouting match. “Death panels” frequently is hurled at anyone daring to introduce sanity into the arena. There are only biomedical ethics committees I’m aware of which counsel families about the burdens & benefits surrounding a medical pathway. Frequently, families often choose the wrong one, spending millions on medically futile care which tortures their loved one who frequently loses the ability even to say goodbye. Please visit our Foundation’s web page for more information about medical futility at end of life:

  75. Hue-Man says:

    PBS Newshour has had nightly questions from people on the street about their Obamacare. Two things struck me:
    1. Many don’t know what medical benefits are available to them pre-Obamacare. This seems especially true of people who need access to health care the most – those who appear to qualify for Medicaid.

    2. The answers are filled with confusing jargon that requires a post-graduate degree to understand. Sick people making life and death decisions almost need a full-time translator to explain the rules to them. (This is not a knock on Obamacare since most of the confusion is baked into the system.)

    Finally, Americans must face the results of the decisions they have made about their health insurance that I’ve never had to consider, living in the freedom-hating socialist land of single payer; “if I’d chosen Plan C and spent an extra $20/month instead of Plan B, I could afford the [name a medical treatment] that would save my life or prevent me from losing my home.” [The only time this would be an issue for me is if I visited the US and DIDN’T purchase supplementary travel insurance. Quick quote this morning: CAD 512.23 for “snowbird” coverage, i.e. 6 months, for CAD $10 million emergency coverage.]

  76. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    That does work, but the principal really frowned on cocktails in the classroom. Picky, picky.

  77. nicho says:

    The main reason health care in the US is so expensive is because it has been corporatized. Before it was, health care was accessible and affordable. I’m old enough to remember.

    Then corporations were allowed to turn it into a “profit center,” and all hell broke loose. There are too many people — many of them not even in this country — who make money every time you go to the doctor. What many people are unaware of are the massive shadow corporations who suck billions of dollars out of the system.

    These are companies you and I never see or interact directly with. They live in a world between your doctor and your insurance company and they are extremely profitable. There are companies that provide billing services, companies that take the billing from the billing corporation and pass it along to another corporation that in turn passes it along to the insurance companies. There are corporations that provide the medical record system for your doctor, etc. etc.

    People would be shocked if they knew how many people have their finger in the pie.

  78. lynchie says:

    I accomplish that with many cocktails

  79. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I taught first grade, so I have a pathological need for calm.

  80. nicho says:

    This is really OT, but it’s for all of those people who wet themselves because they thought the pope said something nice about gays last week (he didn’t really).

    Pope excommunicates priest for being pro-LGBT.


    Not one pedophile has been excommunicated — defrocked maybe, but not excommunicated. New pope — same as the old pope, but with different marketing.

  81. nicho says:

    I kind of like it being hyper — otherwise the average American would fall asleep after 30 seconds. We have a definite attention-span problem in this country.

  82. lynchie says:

    She went online and was allowed to fill out a form. Within 20 minutes she had 7 phone calls from different companies willing to offer various plans. Here is the link:


    Now it can be a bit confusing at first you do have to know what your plan covers, copay, deductible, etc. but you can sort through that fairly quickly. But as I said she was reviewing the plans and got phone calls while still on line. Now you are right in one thing her coverage doesn’t start until October 1 because that is when these rates go into effect but it was a painless process. Like I said, have your current coverage information at hand and find a comparable plan. I would say be careful of any plan which forces you to stay in network because you have to go to one of their “approved” doctors and their “approved” hospitals. For shits and giggles go to the site and let us know if you can reduce your coverage costs.

  83. Drew2u says:

    This guy needs to be a guest on The Daily Show or Colbert Report. (why? Demographics.)

  84. Yes, it’s about time we find out the main reason for the insane costs of health care, then move on to the next reason. The Affordable Care Act should follow the same path of getting down the costs. As you have stated many times on this forum, John, it’s about time we bring capitalism into health care and make the providers compete for the services of one payer.

  85. I thought it want live until October 1, how did she do it already?

  86. lynchie says:

    My daughter just filled out the paperwork to get health insurance under the ACA. She saves $176.00 per month over what she has now with the same deductible, same co pay, etc. She phoned her current insurer and asked for a reduction in premium and was told basically to drop dead. Pretty easy to see why the old way of treating patients will go by the way of the dodo bird. I am sure there will be glitches, sure that some things will have to change, but saving $2,000 a year for the same coverage. By the way the current insurance company has called twice this morning trying to get her to stay. Sayonara Muthrfuckers!

  87. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Interesting and informative, but he really needs to switch to decaf.

  88. Indigo says:

    That was pretty good. He’s definitely entertaining and at least largely informative. He might consider skipping the espresso before turning on the camera but he’s on target. The hidden factor he slides right over is the inflated US currency. $1.00 US value = $100.00 US cost. Our´╗┐ money has been cheapened by corporate mismanagement. He glossed over that real quick.

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