Required reading

The July 28 edition of the Sun-Gazette carried the front page headline, “What’s the deal with patient charges?” Adjacent to the article was a rather creative illustration comparing the costs of treating C.O.P.D. at several regional hospitals.

The cost differentials cited were dramatic, from a low of $7,281 at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg to $41,115 at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. The higher figure is roughly six times the lower. If I may paraphrase Shakespeare, “Something is rotten in the state of . . .” our nation’s health care system.

Reporter Mike Reuther offered a respectable account of our local situation. But nationwide, the “business” of medicine has been out of control for decades, taking root years before

“Obamacare” entered our political lexicon.

If your readers genuinely are interested in a full, fair and reasoned explanation of how our current system of medical billing practices is destroying our ability to provide all Americans with effective and efficient health care, please read Time Magazine’s Special Report in the March 4, 2013 edition.

The article, written by Steven Brill, is entitled, “Bitter Pill–Why Medical Bills are Killing Us.” Brill’s report is lengthy, over 24,000 words, but the thorough nature of his seven-month investigation and the clarity of his writing make “Bitter Pill” a riveting and provocative read and one of unquestioned journalistic integrity. Here is a brief sampling of Brill’s inquiry:

Americans spend more on health care than the next ten most expensive nations combined? Why?

We spend about 20 percent of our GDP on health care, twice as much as most other developed countries, yet our results are often no better or even worse. Why?

Hospitals typically add a 10,000 percent markup to the Dollar Store price of acetaminophen. Why?

What is the “chargemaster” and how does this “mysterious internal price list” used by every hospital in the United States affect the cost of your medical care?

What is the difference (if any) between a non-profit hospital and a for-profit hospital? How might this IRS distinction affect the cost of your medical care?

What is the average annual pay (salary and benefits) of hospital chief administrators? How might this impact the cost of medical care in America?

How are health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical testing laboratories, medical equipment manufacturers and the federal government involved in this nation’s failure to provide cost-effective medical care to all of our citizens?

“Bitter Pill” should be required reading for anyone involved in our health care system. And from our time in the womb until our time in the tomb, that includes each and every one of us.

John B. Raymond


Submitted by Virtual Newsroom