Saturday, May 11, 2013

Health Care American Style

In the United States we have some of the best doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in the world.

Unfortunately, we probably have the worst health care system in the First World. Some day I'm going to do a long post about this (I've been telling myself for at least two years), but for now let me just refer you to this New York Times article about the prices different hospitals charge to treat the same illness.

To quote from the article:
A 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. 

Data being released for the first time by the government on Wednesday shows that hospitals charge Medicare wildly differing amounts — sometimes 10 to 20 times what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, raising questions about how hospitals determine prices and why they differ so widely.

The data for 3,300 hospitals, released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, shows wide variations not only regionally but among hospitals in the same area or city.
The article says, "Government officials said that some of the variation might reflect the fact that some patients were sicker or required longer hospitalization." Yeah, I guess they might. But on the other hand, we're talking about average bills here, not individual bills.

Find your area hospitals on this interactive map. Do they charge more, less, or about average? This is a Must Visit web site.

The Mayo Clinic charges less than the U.S. average. The Cleveland Clinic charges 1 to 2 times the U.S. average.

The Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego is the only area hospital that charges less than the national average.  All the rest charge 1 to 2 times the national average, except Sharp Chula Vista, which bills more than 2 times the national average.

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