Our Expensive Health Care System

The other day, I was reading an entry by Ronni Bennett in her blog posts in which she reviews an article entitled:  Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,  a report written by Steve Brill, the founder of Court TV and American Lawyer.  Shortly after reading her review of the article, I came across several other reviews of the same article.  I am very happy that this topic is beginning to be looked at.  I have written on the topic of expensive health care.

Although Ms.Bennett had some issues with Mr. Brill, she states:

Nevertheless, “Bitter Pill” is the best damned report about the sorry state of the U.S. Health care industry I’ve ever seen (and I read a LOT about health care).

What makes it so good is its clarity. It is filled with case and interview details, comparisons among costs, charges and profits, and written not for lawyers, doctors or policy wonks with the intention to obfuscate, but for you and me, the average reader.

Plus, it reads like a good novel in the sense that you can’t wait to get to the next paragraph, the next page. By the end, Brill shows what we old folks already know – that in health care delivery and in cost control, Medicare beats private coverage every time.

Brill’s conclusions about what to do to rein in health care costs appear to me to be weak but I want to spend more time considering them. What’s important, however, is that he gives us plenty of information to use as a basis for an honest, public conversation about how to change American health care.

Not that I’m holding my breath given the power of the medical industry lobby.

from the article, Ms. Bennett shares some interesting statistics.  According to Mr. Brill:

we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia.

We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care.

Medicare pays $11.02 for a CBC [complete blood count] in Connecticut. Hospital finance people argue vehemently that Medicare doesn’t pay enough and that they lose as much as 10% on an average Medicare patient…..But even if the Medicare price should be, say, 10% higher, it’s a long way from $11.02 plus 10% to $157.61.” [which the hospital charges for the same test.]

In 2008, Gregory Demske, an assistant inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate committee that ‘physicians routinely receive substantial compensation from medical-device companies through stock options, royalty agreements, consulting agreements, research grants and fellowships.’”

MD Anderson’s charge of $7 each for “ALCOHOL PREP PAD.” This is a little square of cotton used to apply alcohol to an injection. A box of 200 can be bought online for $1.91.”

”More than $280 billion will be spent this year on prescription drugs in the U.S. If we paid what other countries did for the same products, we would save about $94 billion a year.”

Ms. Bennett concludes:

Brill’s report reinforces more vividly what others before him have shown many times over – that what is wrong with our health care system is not Medicare, it’s the private sector.

When I googled Steve Brill’s article, there were pages and pages of respondents from around the United States.  Most seemed to support the contents of Mr. Brill’s article.  Although I have as yet to read it myself, I do look forward to it.   I quote Ms. Bennett’s response to the article because in reading her reflections on Mr. Brill’s article, they  reflected my concerns about our healthcare system.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013