“The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill”

The New York Times has started a series called Paying Till It Hurts about high medical costs. quite recently.) The most extreme example is that a certain (unspecified) amount of lipitor costs $124 in the United States and $6 in New Zealand. Other treatments that cost much more in the United States include hip replacements and MRI scans.

This series might be a turning point, leading to government regulation of what health care providers can charge, which is how other countries control health care costs. To read the huge number of comments (already > 1000) is to see the suffering caused by these prices. One comment: “An acne medication was over $550 for a small tube of ointment. The [prescribing] Dr. had no idea it was that expensive.”

The high prices are the tip of the iceberg of American health care dysfunction. Less obvious is the poor research that sustains them. Acne is an example. It surely has environmental causes (probably diet). If we knew what those are, you wouldn’t have to pay anything to cure acne.

12 Replies to ““The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill””

  1. This series might be a turning point, leading to government regulation of what health care providers can charge, which is how other countries control health care costs.

    I’m curious as to what fuels your optimism. Didn’t the PPACA debacle provide us with enough evidence to suggest that government and industry are one and the same?

    Seth: On the one hand, the level of outrage is very high. On the other, the NY Times is essentially saying “we, as Americans, should be ashamed”. This hasn’t happened before. It reminds me of when the civil rights movement began to be effective. It is one thing for medical costs to be high. It is quite another for them to be shamefully high.

  2. You know what else is shameful? I’m paying about the same amount for health insurance this year as last year, but my coverage is much worse this year. Essentially, my wife and I have only catastrophic coverage. Up to a certain point, we have to pay out-of-pocket for all our medical bills, including prescriptions. To add insult to injury, my health insurance company is calling this plan the “Consumer-Driven Option”, as if the insurer is being inundated with impassioned requests to provide much crappier coverage. Consumer-driven, indeed. Do they think we’re all stupid?

  3. The problem is too much government meddling and regulation, no free, open market for either healthcare or medical insurance, CYA testing by doctors to protect them from malpractice law suits, the fact that people have forgotten what the definition of “insurance” is when it comes to healthcare (they think it’s a medical discount payment plan), i.e.: Can you preexisting damage coverage for auto insurance? How about after death life insurance?

    And it’s not just that we pay too much for prescription medications, other countries pay too little – they need to pay their fair share, as liberals like to say.

    Seth: It isn’t clear to me how government meddling causes colonoscopies to cost much more in the United States than in other countries. There is plenty of government meddling in other countries. Are you saying that the cost of health care is unreasonably LOW in all other countries?

    Cheers

  4. The amount of pseudo-intellectual Twister-playing that Libertarians do to fit trillion-dollar corporate theft — that’s happening right in front of them — into their worldview blows my mind.

  5. I hope more companies follow the example set by Safeway. This has a chance of putting a serious dent in the increase in healthcare costs.

  6. Nancy, the video won’t load for some reason. What blood markers are worsening? Is it transient or prolonged? What kind of exercise?

  7. “Seth: It isn’t clear to me how government meddling causes colonoscopies to cost much more in the United States than in other countries. There is plenty of government meddling in other countries. Are you saying that the cost of health care is unreasonably LOW in all other countries?”

    Hospitals and medical offices are horrifically inefficient and much of this is the direct results of government interference. One example is that a hospital had a do-it-yourself checklist system for managing operations and patient care (basically, developing a system of best practices). This was shot down by the FDA or some other such agency. Multiply this type of nonsense by 100 and then add in the artificially low number of physicians along with the epic risk of litigation (which increases market risk and makes it necessary for everyone with invested capital to earn higher initial fees to compensate for the risk) and you can pretty much sum up a lot of the extraneous costs in our system.

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