Thursday, September 6, 2012

$83,046 For A 3 Hour Hospital Visit - Why Are Hospital Bills So Outrageous?

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Michael Snyder, Contributor
Activist Post

The fastest way to go broke in America is to go to the hospital. These days it seems like almost everyone has an outrageous hospital bill story to share. It is getting to the point where most people are deathly afraid to go to the hospital. All the financial progress that you have made in recent years can literally be wiped out in just a matter of hours. For example, you are about to read about an Arizona woman that was recently charged $83,046 for a 3 hour hospital visit.

How in the world is anyone supposed to pay a bill like that? I have a really hard time understanding why a visit to the doctor should ever be more than a couple hundred bucks or why a hospital stay should ever be more than a couple thousand dollars. Outrageous hospital bills are a real pet peeve of mine and I have not even been to the hospital in ages. What makes all of this even more infuriating is that Medicare, Medicaid and the big insurance companies are often charged less than 10 percent of what the rest of us are billed for the same procedures.

There is a reason why 41 percent of all working-age Americans are struggling with medical debt right now. It is because our health care system has become a giant money-making scam. Millions of desperate Americans go into hospitals each year assuming that they will be treated fairly, but in the end they get stuck with incredibly outrageous bills and in many cases cruel debt collection techniques are employed against them if they don't pay.

So why do we have to pay so much for medical care?

Back in 1980, less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP went to health care. Today, about 18 percent of U.S. GDP goes toward health care.

And considering the fact that over the next 20 years the number of Americans 65 years of age or older is projected to double that number is going to go even higher.

On a per capita basis we spend about twice as much on health care as anyone else in the world.

In fact, if the U.S. health care system was a nation it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.

America spent 2.47 trillion dollars on health care in 2009, and it is now being projected that we will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019.

Our system is completely and totally broken, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse. We need to throw the entire system out and start over.

A perfect example of why this is true is what happened when 52-year-old Marcie Edmonds went in to a hospital in Arizona recently to get treated for a scorpion sting....
With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives. 
Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours. 
Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.
What makes this even more shocking is that hospitals in Mexico only charge $100 per dose of Anascorp.

These days many hospitals will do whatever they can get away with on hospital bills.

One NBC News reporter was absolutely stunned at the bill that she received after she went in for neck surgery for degenerative disc disease recently....

Once I got my itemized bill, the grand total was a little over $66,013.40! That was for a one night stay and a four level vertebrae fusion surgery. The charges included $22 for one sleeping pill, $427 for one dissecting tool, and $32,000 for four titanium plates and ten screws. 
I brought it to Todd Hill, a fee based patient advocate who helps people decipher their medical bills. 'The screws in your procedure were billed at $605 a piece for a total of $6050 dollars. We've seen those in our past research for $25 or $30,' he said. 'In this case, the markup is tremendous,' he added.
Considering the fact that 77 percent of American families are living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time, a single hospital bill like this can be a financial death blow.

If you have time, read this tragic story where one man was charged $11,000 and all he had was a case of bad indigestion. Nothing was even wrong with him and now his family is going to have to declare bankruptcy.

Often medical bills are so complex and so confusing that nobody can really understand them. Much of the time this is probably done on purpose to keep people from understanding how badly they are being overcharged. The following is from a recent article in the New York Times....
Hospital care tends to be the most confounding, and experts say the charges you see on your bill are usually completely unrelated to the cost of providing the services (at hospitals, these list prices are called the 'charge master file'). 'The charges have no rhyme or reason at all,' Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 'Why is 30 minutes in the operating room $2,000 and not $1,500? There is absolutely no basis for setting that charge. It is not based upon the cost, and it’s not based upon the market forces, other than the whim of the C.F.O. of the hospital.' 
And those charges don’t really have any connection to what a hospital or medical provider will accept for payment, either. 'If you line up five patients in their beds and they all have gall bladders removed and they get the same exact medication and services, if they have insurance or if they don’t have insurance, the hospital will get five different reimbursements, and none of it is based on cost,' said Holly Wallack, a medical billing advocate in Miami Beach. 'The insurers negotiate a different rate, and if you are uninsured, underinsured or out of network, you are asked to pay full fare.'
It has been estimated that hospitals in the United States overcharge their patients by about 10 billion dollars every single year.

Medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy. As I mentioned earlier, approximately 41 percent of all working-age Americans are struggling with medical debt.

And health insurance is not as much protection as you might think. According to a report published in the American Journal of Medicine, of all bankruptcies caused by medical debt, approximately 75 percent of the time the people actually did have health insurance.

And if you can't pay your bills, many hospitals will come after you ruthlessly.

In fact, collection agencies sought to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans during 2010 alone.

If you don't cough up the cash they are demanding you can even end up in prison. The following example comes from CBS News....
How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill -- one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. 'She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it,' The Associated Press reports. 'But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.' 
Although the U.S. abolished debtors' prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don't pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans.
But why do these bills have to be so high? It is not like many doctors are getting rich these days. In fact, many of them are going broke.

So what is the deal?

Well, as a recent article by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts explained, there are a whole lot of people pulling profit out of the system other than just doctors these days....
There are two main reasons that US medicine is so expensive. One is that profits are piled upon profits. In addition to wages and salaries for doctors, nurses, and medical personnel, the American health care system has to provide profits for private hospitals, diagnostic centers, insurance companies, and for the accountants, attorneys and management consultants made necessary by the enormous litigation and regulatory compliance cost. American medicine is the most regulated in the world and the most criminalized.
And another big factor is that the rest of us have to make up the difference for the patients that are not profitable.

It has gotten to the point where doctors barely make any profit on Medicare and Medicaid patients. In fact, in many cases doctors actually lose money treating them.

An article posted on has some outrageous examples of the difference between what you and I are billed and what Medicare pays out for the exact same procedures....
A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation for which Medicare pays $584. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629.
So not only do we pay very high taxes to support Medicaid and Medicare, we also have to pay higher medical bills in order to make up the difference for the money that doctors and hospitals are not seeing from those patients.

Unfortunately, Medicaid and Medicare are expected to grow dramatically in the years ahead.

For example, it is now being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to Medicaid.

And enrollment in Medicare is projected to grow from 50.7 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.

How in the world can our current system possibly handle this?

And please don't tell me that Obamacare is the answer.

The truth is that Obamacare is going to take everything that is wrong with our health care system and make it even worse.

For a good summary on this, please see this article.

In the years ahead it is going to get even harder for those that are not dependent on the government for health care....
  • Approximately 10 percent of all employers plan to drop health insurance coverage entirely because of Obamacare.
  • According to one recent poll, 83 percent of all doctors in the United States have considered quitting the profession because of Obamacare, and we were already projected to have a severe doctor shortage in the years ahead even before Obamacare came along.
We are heading into the greatest health care crisis the United States has ever seen, and none of our leaders seem to have any answers.

In a recent article entitled "11 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is Heading Straight Down The Toilet", I detailed a lot more reasons why our health care system is a national disgrace. If you can handle some more ranting I encourage you to go check out that article.

I am just absolutely disgusted with the condition of our health care system. It is dominated by government bureaucrats, pharmaceutical corporations and the big health insurance companies. It is a giant money-making scam that seeks to drain as much money from the rest of us as possible.

So do you have a hospital bill horror story to share? Please feel free to share your thoughts below....

This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.


This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


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Anonymous said...

Two more points.

One - almost free, time-tested, natural herbal remedies are being made illegal to force people to pay for expensive, shoddily tested, unnatural chemically concocted "remedies".

Two - according to AARP, they have supported the Advanced Care Planning Consultation requirement in medical reform, stating that it "would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves [on end-of-life care], but also better ensure that their wishes are followed." The choice for older people is to refuse treatment and just suffer and die, or take the treatment and leave nothing for their children.

Anonymous said...

"The choice for older people is to refuse treatment and just suffer and die, or take the treatment and leave nothing for their children."

This is the same as a mugger with a gun pointed at your chest saying, "Give me all your money!" George Orwell might label this "Medical Reform", but it sure looks like Mafioso to me.

Anonymous said...

To highlight the difference.

I payed 40 dollars, for a 2 day apenix sugery, inkl taxi home, and our health servis is "free", and even then we have a health service that costs half of your heath expences in a national level. Its basicly TAX founded.

I have the same TAX level that Americans have, 30 % income TAX and that pays for Education that is free up to Master level, all the way.
And so on.

Americans, you are been b..fu... at every level, in every consivable way, but hey, dint you brag about, your "best health care in the world" shitt. Thats all doe to the simple fact that americans dont know anything about others, expet their own litlle bobble caled "the world".
And even my counrty is not the best and cheapest.


Anonymous said...

"$83,046 For A 3 Hour Hospital Visit - Why Are Hospital Bills So Outrageous?"............... Whaddaya mean "why are hospital bills so outrageous?" - because the shmucks who own and run the business are greedy f**ks who just do not give a damn about the well being of society.

citizen ron says you need to f*cking wake up said...

here; i'll show you why:

wake up, humans. wake up.

Anonymous said...

Good article. I've argued endlessly about the US h/c system, it seems Americans are so propaganidized about real universal care they can't grasp the concept at all. They either think obamacare will fix it (HA!) or that they have the best care in the world and will not budge from either position. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Profit margins are padded at every level of medical care. From manufacture of supplies to service provided, everyone adds several hundred percent to the cost.
A .5 cent cotton ball can cost 20 dollars by the time it's used on you because everyone involved with that ball tries to get their profit up front and let the next guy in line worry about how to collect.

A 3000% price increase gains the collector at least a guaranteed 300% likely profit. To hell with everyone else...including the patient.

Take care of yourself. It's the best medical care you cab get.

Anonymous said...

Why are medical bills so outrageous? Because you can do that with a monopoly, and, moreover, maximizing profits is as American as apple pie.

"America: What a country!" Yakov Smirnoff. (It's a joke!)

Anonymous said...

Ticker-Guy covered this well I think. There's always more to it though, the bottom line is the lily pads. Remember that school story, You get it all right now, tomorrow you give a penny, then two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty two, sixty four, one hundred and twenty eight, two hundred and fifty six, and on it goes in less than 30 days you own the entire planet

Anonymous said...

When I bring my car in for servicing, I get an itemized estimate for all costs.

Except for emergency situations, where time is of the essence, why shouldn't we demand the same for hospital visits? And why shouldn't we be able to refuse certain treatments, tests or medications if we want to?

When my father was in the hospital, only a few hours away from death, his cardiologist, without my knowledge, prescribed a visit from a psychiatrist to determine the state of this highly medicated, dying man's mind! After my father's death, I received an outrageous bill for this psychiatrist's very short visit to my father's bedside, a visit which determined absolutely nothing of any value for my father's well-being. I refused to pay that portion of my father's bill.

Anonymous said...

Healthcare is an outrageous racket. In the scorpion sting story, note the insurer paid over $50k of the bill, but the drug supplier only charged the hospital $3780 per dose! Both insurer and hospital just pass the costs along.

I looked into Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West) because they might take on a local hospital that is losing money. I checked the hospital's annual report, and the source of their red ink was not the uninsured, but Medicare. A little hospital gets comped at one rate, but by becoming part of the TBTF hospitals you get higher compensation.

Meanwhile non-union, non-corporate workers who cannot afford coverage continue to get the money or your life option, while people with coverage see prices up, coverage down and now blame the uninsured. (BTW, The hospital I talked about above also blamed a drop in revenue on the fact that even people with insurance aren't using it, and many people have lost insurance so they're doing without care. Fewer patients have private insurance, leaving only Medicare patients.)

I looked into one aspect of out of control costs: the Group Purchasing Organizations, to see if ACA did anything meaningful. ACA will require an annual report on ownership and investment interests held by physicians. So rampant semi-legal crime is fine, just so long as physicians aren't in on it.

Why can hospitals charge anything they want and charge different people different prices? On its face that is just crazy. I wish I was in a business that let me charge 100 or a 1000 times cost. BTW, the number of uninsured in this county is now estimated over 50 million with no help in sight.

Dimondwoof said...

Gee, I feel a lot better now about my 3 hour procedure only costing $45,000. But then again, it was in a clinic, not a full blown hospital.

somitcw said...

End the monopoly that allopathic "medicine" has and treatment will improve drastically with prices plummeting.
That is to say, re-legalize traditional medicine.
Traditional medicine was the one that cured disease anyway that it could. It was much better than the allopaths treating symptoms and treating and treating. Some allopaths actually have/cause some people to take several different types of dope everyday which they will be taking for the rest of their life.

Eric S. Meyer said...

In July through Sept. 2010, I was sold medical care in a mental hospital for emailing the Israeli Prime Minister. The doctor initially thought I was a spy, so he raped me, and a nurse stabbed me with a weapon in my knee to entice me to fight to try to sell me more psych services against my will. Then, in October, when I got to go home to my wife, I was on a guardianship to block me from suing the hospital for my rape and abuse. I am still on a guardianship, yet after I moved, the new court might hopefully release me since I am married. Married wards of the state usually are released from guardianships after marriage is proven to the court, but not in my case for the first two years. You may read more of my ebooks on my life story at for which I signed into the public domain back on August 31, 2012 with my wife's help.

Anonymous said...

The Hippocratic Oath is the Oath of Hypocrites and the Monopolies they run.

Anonymous said...

I suffered from a really bad abdominal pain one time and spent months going to a clinic many times and was sent to specialists just to do diagnosis. No treatment whatsoever. The doctors claimed thousands of dollars from my insurance company and I had to spend a lot of money on copayment as well. At the end... they said they had no idea what was wrong with me. All the money they took from me and my insurance company was simply on diagnosis. Since then, I try to avoid seeing any doctor as much as I can by eating healthty and seeking alternative medicine or home remedies. I don't trust doctors anymore. They are money driven and don't have people as their best interest.

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