If you haven’t read the Time Magazine article called “Bitter Pill” why our healthcare system is killing us I highly recommend you read it. It’s a long article and there are some inaccuracies but it will leave you wondering if “for profit” healthcare can ever work in this country.
An executive summary of the article would be that American hospitals are marking up things like Tylenol 1200% among other items. I found this out when I visited the ER last month and wound up with a $12,000 bill for 4 hours. What really had me so angry was to learn that so many hospital CEO’s and hospitals themselves are making huge profits. For example the University of Pittsburg Medical Center has an operating profit of over $769 million dollars while their CEO took home over $5 million in compensation.
The author also details a story of a man who had cancer and was denied treatment at a leading hospital in Houston until his wife could provide proof that they could pay for the $86,000 treatment that had a substantial markup.
While I understand that the primary objective of any business is to make money I also understand that there is a potential conflict between making money and serving the general public. In my mind nobody should have to put off medical care because they cannot afford it. The general rule that the author seems to push is that it’s better to wait until we qualify for Medicare as prices then are regulated.
One area that I believe the author got wrong was talking about the sky high prices of drugs. Are there some drugs that are priced way too high ? Of course but he states that the price of one Lipitor can purchase three tablets in Argentina and that the price of one Nexium here in the US is equal to the price of 8 in France. First Lipitor is now generic and second generic sales in the US are now increasing as some big names drugs come off patent. Second, the prices paid by other countries does not account for the expensive R&D costs that pharma has to recoup. Finally some hospitals mark up prices of drugs more than 500%. That has to change.
It getting to the point where we are going to have to ask, when we need medical services, “how much is that?” and “why do I need that?”. Patients trust their doctors to make the right recommendations when it comes to their healthcare but more and more physician are going to have to think about the costs involved and stop practicing defensive medicine.