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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ones health is generally determined by genetic lottery and your lifestyle.  While you can do nothing about the former, you can certainly influence the latter.  It cracks me up to see people gorging on junk food, fried food, and sugar filled everything whilst taking 10+ medications daily to control their 'conditions'.  It is simpler to drink moderately, dont smoke, exercise heartily, ditch the soft drinks, only ever eat fresh food, and never ever eat fried food.  Assuming you have the genetic part right, the rest should take care of itself.  Cleanses, colonics and 'stress relieving lasers' (thats a new one), are essentially harmless, unlike fried food, animal proteins in excess etc.   That being said, the topic was medical good friend is a 38 year old Brain Surgeon pulling in $900k a year.  yes, medical costs are out of this world.

Exactly. Thank you for helping is get back on topic (myself included) My point is simply that medical costs can be reduced by prevention, which is the goal of alternative medicine. If anyone suggests that alternative medicine does not encompass nutrition as well then you obviously know nothing about it. I am NOT advocating snake oil. There are many forms of alternative medicine that is not effective. But to throw it all out the window and say it's all bunk is ignorance.

To address your point Ray, yes of course modern medicine is not bad. Yes, it has increased our lifespan. But many of the things people end up paying high medical bills for are a result of them mistreating their own bodies for years. Diabetes is a perfect example of this. Diabetes BTW is a disease our ancestors DIDN'T have. (Because of the way they ate) I am NOT advocating one or the other but rather suggesting that a holistic approach could go a long way towards lowering costs paid over the course of a lifetime.

Actually, some forms of diabetes are genetic and likely did occur - those afflicted just died at a young age.

Obesity related diabetes, on the other hand, obviously is more prevalent today due to obesity and increased life span.

The reality is people consume far more than necessary and exercise far less than necessary - and we will all be paying for it.

I calculated the cost of the calories to generate the excess 20 pounds for each American adult since ~1960 - it's about the same as our national debt. And as far as I can tell, neither is going away any time soon.

"Diabetes is a disease our ancestors did NOT have ( because of the way they ate )." Really , Belle ? People have had diabetes since there have been people . As a matter of fact , all mammals are susceptible to Diabetes Melitus . This is exactly the ignorance that is promoted and spread by proponents of the hucksterism and quackery that is alternative medicine . There was no ," Golden Age " , of " village Healers " curing our ancestors "naturally " . People's lives were nasty , brutish , and short , AND filled with horrible infectious and non infectious illnesses for which the only relief was a rapid death .

Oh my, you think our ancestors didn't have diabetes?  Do you even know what Type 1 Diabetes is?  It would be more accurate to say that our ancestors had a much lower rate of menopause - but only because few women lived long enough to experience it, and that is a great form of prevention.

I think my original point was missed completely, but that's OK. Perhaps that's my own fault for being too forward about it. For those who might be interested, I would challenge you to read up on the subject and decide for yourself. Ultimately all I am saying (really, truly) is that in so many ways we hold the answer to great health within ourselves. Yes, there is always a place for modern medicine, and thank goodness for it. But there's a lot of wisdom that I have found personally from other avenues of health that has saved me a great deal of time, money, pain and suffering, and promoted healing in my own life. I think our modern medical system ignores the holistic approach which I believe to be the most beneficial.

Part of the problem may stem from a misunderstanding of the term 'holistic health'.  There are two common usages of the term - one in modern medical science, which approaches health care from a combined physical, psychological, emotional standpoint which includes preventative measures such as counseling for good diet, fewer vices, etc.  You don't seem to realize this side of the word exists.

The other use of the word pops up in 'alternative medicine' where it is often claimed that 'mainstream' medicine overlooks all these aspects.  The problem with the 'alternative medicine' holistic approach is that it assumes all disease results from emotional/energy imbalances and are best treated from that perspective - this is a view that sees people like Steve Jobs dying rather than facing facts - and it is not a very popular view in the skeptics community.

Diabetes I and II are related mostly due to a symptom, but are totally different diseases. The former is due to a malfunctioning pancreas, which seems to be hereditary, arriving as a birth defect. Type II, by contrast, is an inability of the body to process carbohydrates effiiently at the cellular level despite (or rather with regard to) having a functioning pancreas. It appears to be related to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Good point. I suppose I should clarify that I was referring to type 2 when I posted on that...anyway, Heather I think you're right the word "holistic' would need to be defined a bit better on my part. That is a discussion for another day.



Let's lighten the mood a little: Why americans don't deserve healthcare.

The situation is not as bad in Canada, given our socialized medical system, but it is still riddled with many similar problems.  With little to no incentive to restrict costs, regional health administrations can spiral out of control and completely lose focus on their intended purpose.  I've spoken with people who work for the 'Web Development Department' of a regional health authority - as opposed to working for the IT Department, which has nothing to do with the Medical Technology Servies Department.

The regional health authority cannot allow actual patients to log in to see where their files are moving - too much potential for privacy violations and the general view of the Regional Health Authority is that their customers are the hospitals and Nurses Union - not actual patients.

I'll just cut short there as even thinking about this just makes me Palin.

Look, I like capitalism, but I've come to decide that there are places where capitalism doesn't work.

That's really it. The problem with for-profit health care is that insurers take losses by actually paying for health care. Thus it becomes profitable for insurers to deny as many claims as possible and refuse to cover clients who need costly care.

This is why the Republican privatized health care model doesn't work. States that require insurers to actually pay for claims and cover clients will effectively establish higher rates and can't compete. States that allow insurers to deny the most claims and refuse the most coverage will establish the lowest rates. It's the perfect racket: sure, we'll sell you health insurance, but only if you stay healthy.


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