Letter of the Day (March 5): Hospital bills

  • Updated: March 4, 2013 - 8:58 PM
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Illustration: Health care costs.

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Thanks for your March 1 article “Health care: The pricing puzzle.” The problems discussed no doubt constitute one piece of the puzzle.

However, as Time magazine’s March 4 issue documents in a 39-page special report, a key and primary piece of this puzzle involves diverse and bizarre hospital pricing that in any other business would be recognized as extreme price-gouging. The $1.50 aspirin charge by hospitals that we all commonly accept is nothing.

Author Steven Brill covers such subjects as “The $21,000 heartburn bill,” “Non-profit profitmakers,” “The lab-test cash machine,” “Insurance that isn’t” and many other examples. The trouble is these represent standard practice.

Such issues as triple billing, meds that cost as little as $300 to make but that hospitals charge $13,700 for, and a tax-exempt, church-related health organization whose executive vice president makes $3.7 million are all discussed.

Such issues give rise to special organizations that broker discounts of 30 to 50 percent on bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the few patients who know enough to search out these groups.

However, most patients know nothing about such organizations and are stuck with paying the full amount. The special issue of Time exposing these scandalous practices is must-reading for anyone interested in the health care pricing puzzle.

Lucyan Mech, St. Paul

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