In a new article, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, Time Magazine delves into why medical bills are so high. 

I had a fibrous cyst creating a boil on my neck several years ago. After a round of antibiotics, a doctor performed a 15 minute outpatient surgery, assisted by a nurse, in an examination room. It wasn't even an operating room. Local anesthetic was used. The incision was about 3/4", and I was given a prescription for Vicodin I really didn't need before I left. 

The bill was about $850. I was shocked. I might have expected $250, but $850?

Well, $850 is nothing in today's medical world. 

Time describes instances of non-life threatening household accident injuries that run up bills in the five figures. More serious problems like treating cancer can run up bills in the six- and seven-figure range with ridiculous line items described in excruciating detail in the article.

What makes the pain of high healthcare costs worse is that the health care providers seem to be profiteering with markups that are as outrageous as they are unjustified. So-called "nonprofit" hospitals are actually profit-making institutions. Have you noticed how your local hospital is adding on new additions like crazy while the rest of the economy is slow. It's a boom economy in healthcare, forcing unjustifiable costs on a public suffering in a totally separate economy.

The article argues something I've already written about here: the healthcare industry isn't a normal market and doesn't really operate in the normal economy the rest of us have to live in. It doesn't compete for the business it gets and there's very little operating to restrain their costs. Yes, your insurance company probably gets a discount of 40%-50%, but even with that discount it's hard to justify the line items on the bills. 

Of course, there are people who can't pay their bills and become write-offs and they become part of the high cost of healthcare, but not such a large part that bills need to be as high as they are. Likewise, insuring themselves against lawsuits filed by people who can't accept that (a) shit happens or that (b) some people's conditions are terminal no matter WHAT care they get is a costly problem.

Putting some controls on the legal problems the industry faces is an obvious need, and one that can be addressed. However, the reasons for high healthcare have mostly to do with greed—getting whatever the traffic will bear—rather than providing the best service possible at a reaonable price. It's an industry that has forgotten that its primary purpose is to provide a service, not to break the back of those it serves with unjustifiably high expenses.

Look, I like capitalism, but I've come to decide that there are places where capitalism doesn't work. We don't want police and fire departments, libraries, and parks to be run on a "what the market will bear" basis. I would think that we especially don't want our healthcare system run that way.

You have no better argument for socializing medicine than the system we have now.

Tags: care, health

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Canadians aren't so dumb in our igloos are we?

I'm strongly considering dual citizenship.

I don't think that's possible in the case of American citizens unless they are entitled to it through an accident of birth (being born in the U.S. by a non-American mother).

I am a HUGE fan of alternative medicine and I TRULY believe that it can hold many answers, maybe not to the entire healthcare system, but as a whole. When individuals take a proactive stance for their own treatment, prevention, and overall health HUGE results (and savings) can result. Many illnesses today (diabetes, heart disease, and yes, even cancer) are preventable. (If we are willing to give up are supersize french fries and substitute life giving foods, and get up off our asses and excercise) for those who don't believe me, read the book titled "CLEAN" by Dr Alejandro Junger, MD. It is fascinating!!! He puts it like this. Imagine that you are sitting on a box begging for pennies when the box hold within it all the gold you need to last a lifetime. THAT is how our bodies work! They are able to heal themselves if we treat them right. Try it. You'll never know what medical bills you may not have to pay, but you'll be too busy enjoying a healthy life to it's fullest. Nothing is perfect, but many things are possible.

I would like to quote Storm by Tim Minchin:

"Alternative Medicine", I continue "Has either not been proved to work, Or been proved not to work. You know what they call "alternative medicine" That's been proved to work? Medicine."

Tim Minchin

How is eating healthy and excercising, taking care of your hormone balance, staying hydrated, decompressing stress on the nerves and staying in tune with your being a worse option than popping every prescription pill your doctor (who has spent about 3-5 minutes examining your "health history" and taking your blood pressure to determine that you need some FDA approved chemical with more side effects than the ingredients on a twinkies label? Think about it. Who are you going to believe? A musician or a real MD?

I think we've run into a bit of a miscommunication. My definition of alternative medecine would be things like reiki, homeopathy, cleanses, stress relieving lasers, colonics, chiropractic, magnet bracelets, Q-ray bracelets, reflexology and so on. Things that have nonexistent or ridiculous theoretical methods of action and are demonstrably ineffective. 

If you are simply suggesting that showing some care and concern towards keeping yourself healthy is a better option compared to totally ignoring your lifestyle then seeking medical attention for your resulting health problems. If you simply mean that staying healthy by a broadly "healthy" lifestyle is a good plan I wholeheartedly agree with you!

None of that is "alternative medicine". Those are all scientifically valid healthful practices.

The thing is, so are the pills (aka "chemicals") you seem to have an issue with.

A healthy lifestyle is just the foundation. Alternative medicine is simply the idea that the body can (and will) heal itself. The goal of alternative medicine is to do whatever means necessary to allow this natural process to occur. I do not believe that we agree. (We can still be friends though) I challenge you to read the book I mentioned. It explains it much better than I can in a short paragraph.

I have benefited a great deal from massage and chiropractor, as well as physical therapy, particularly cranio-sacral and myofascial release techniques that primary care doctors have simply prescribed vicodin for. I have seen before and after X-rays of my neck and back following traumatic injuries from these therapies, and I have benefited naturopatic doctors as well as from cleansing in the sense of giving the digestive system time to relax and reset. 3 squares is a modern invention and a huge reason for many problems. Anyway, you may believe what you will. You may call it woo if you wish. But I challenge you to ask yourself if you really believe the pharmaceuticals being shoved down our throats are really the answer. If so then why are adults and children alike in epidemic porportions becoming overweight, depressed, fatigued, bloated, diabetic, full of cholesterol and heart disease, addicted to caffeine, and unhappy.
Are you kidding ? Humans have lived to an average age of 25 - 30 years for most of our existence , with horrendous childbirth mortalities . Alternative , non scientific , magical treatments have been used for tens of thousands of years without any benefit , only serving in the majority of cases to add to human misery . So called alternative medicine has had it chance , and has failed miserably . The fact it is becoming popular in society again has absolutely nothing to do with any evidence extant that it works , but rather , is due to the massively overwhelming success of scientific , evidence based medical care allowing people to live longer lives in good health , giving them the leisure time to delve into the superstitious , irrational bullshit that we're apparently hardwired for believing .

"Alternative medicine is simply the idea that the body can (and will) heal itself."

I think that's what Steve Jobs thought.

What about cystic fibrosis? Severe combined immunodeficiency? etc, etc,......

And, once DNA gets altered enough to lead to cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, etc., our bodies likely will not "heal" themselves. Granted, spontaneous remissions have occurred, very infrequently, but likely due to more genetic alterations that led to tumor death or adequate recognition and removal by the immune system. My point is, this comment does not appear to take into consideration what we actually do know about cancer, etc., and how our bodies, most of the time, cannot "heal" themselves from cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, etc., or any other disease for which we know the genetic/molecular mechanisms. 

Belle, Belle, Belle! By what sleight of logic is eating healthily and getting exercise "alternative" medicine? I have gotten that advice from my medical doctors for years. Not saying I follow the advice as well as I should, but that is the advice they give. Now, does alternative medicine have alternative treatments for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc., than mainstream medicine? I don't know, but I do know we are often deep in the realm of snake oil and faddism when we start going to the local GNC instead of the local medical doctor.


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