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Medical Bills are the Death of Us

by Vanessa Jones on March 5, 2013 at 12:01 PM
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 Medical Bills are the Death of Us

After his 36 page cover story for Time magazine, Steven Brill joined Hardball on Monday night to discuss his medical findings.

In the seven months Brill took to research eight cases - with corresponding hospital bills, he uncovered some atrocious charges , for example, Gauze pads were charged $77 a box, A single diabetes test strip was charged $18, $50 for a Tyenol which meant a 10,000% mark up.

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A patient paid $474,000 for a month in a Texas hospital when he was treated for pneumonia. Only 20% was covered by his insurance. Brill lays the blame on marked up prices by the manufacturers and hospital administration. The non-profit hospitals made higher profits.

According to him the wrong issue is under fire - instead of who should pay the bill, it should be why are bills so high?

"Over the past few decades we've enriched the labs, drug companies, medical device makers, hospital administrators and purveyors of CT scans, MRIs, canes and wheelchairs," Brill writes. Meanwhile "we've squeezed everyone outside the system who gets stuck with the bills."
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He questioned President Obama's Affordable Care Act's ability to fix the chaos. Obamacare required all citizens to obtain health cover or pay a penalty, states setting up health exchanges - where people could buy health insurance and letting young adults stay on parents cover for longer. Insurers could not refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Would all this save costs was Brill's contention.

"The fair thing to say is [the Obama Administration] tried," he told guest host Michael Smerconish, but added ACA "did nothing to cut the profits of everyone involved. In fact, if anything, it's going to add to the profits because it will put more people into health care, which is a good thing—they're going to have insurance-but  the taxpayers are going to subsidize that insurance."

Brill added that one reason why the ACA passed because "it didn't do anything to cut into profits of the drug companies, of the hospitals, the exorbitant prices that your local, non-profit hospital makes."

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, who worked on the Affordable Care Act as a senior adviser for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Obamacare had some steps to curb the problem but acknowledged that more could be done. She pointed to ACA's expansion of bundled payments, where one could pay a flat fee per episode of care, rather than Medicare receiving separate bills from each provider. Tanden argued that would help create incentives to lower the price of individual items.

"We should take additional steps...but it's not that we haven't done anything," said Tanden.

References:

Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)

Aliyah Frumin, March 2013

Source: Medindia
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