Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The True Cost of Healthcare in the U.S.

Ask a simple question and sometimes the universe smiles at you and hands you a really good answer.

In a previous post I talked about a trip my younger Frenchling and I made to the Emergency room here in Versailles.  I compared it to a trip to Emergency I made in Seattle when I was on vacation.  The latter was 10 times the price of the former and so I said:

"I have a very hard time understanding how two private hospitals in two developed countries could have such radically different pricing models."

Shadow Raider shot back with a great link that answers my indirect question. The site is called The True Cost of Healthcare and the blog author is David Belk, an American doctor.  He looked into it and what he found just blew my mind.  The system is completely distorted - the bills bear no relation to reality and that's on purpose.

I really recommend the site.  His full report is here but you can also go to the main page and watch his short videos on such things as the true cost of prescription medication, malpractice insurance, hospital stays, office visits and diagnostic tests.  Here's one to whet your appetite.  Watch it and weep for Americans who have to live with this system. 


7 comments:

CarnetsdeSeattle said...

OMG I have so much to say about this.... I'll get to it one day.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Oh please do, Loic. You have a view from the ground, so to speak, and an experience (a Frenchman living in the US undergoing treatment) that would really add to this discussion. You were raised under one system and now you are being cared for under another and I think you have some really good insights that I would love to hear. I know you've already written a bit about it and I invite readers here to have a look at your really excellent blog (one I follow religiously), Carnets de deux expats a Seattle.

Loic's most recent post is about the gun control debate in the US and it's really REALLY good.

http://www.carnetsdeseattle.fr/

Laure said...

Thanks Victoria ! I live in New York now and I'm having a hard time understanding the US system... but I also have to say it's not very transparent in the French system either : when you get the bill, you usually don't know what the real cost was, or what the Sécurité sociale is paying for you exactly. (And you usually don't care about these questions, because you pay almost nothing yourself.)

Just me said...

Well, since you are on the subject, I have two very good podcasts for you, that will go a long way towards answering some of your questions...

1. More Is Less
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/391/more-is-less

2. Someone Else's Money
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/392/someone-elses-money

P. Moore said...

Victoria, Thanks for this information and link. It is so revealing, but not so surprising. I suppose in the US, there are those (some politicians and special interests) who would say that is the capitalist way...charge whatever the market will bear. However, for those of us who live in countries who see health care as a universal right, publicly supported through the public revenues, we might see this more like fraud and corruption. Now there is some fundamental cultural differences for you.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Just Me: Great podcasts! I listened to both and didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

@P. Moore, Yeah, Americans seem to think this is a free market problem and that if the market were allowed to do its work all the problems would be solved. Arun from Arun with a View pointed out to me on Facebook that this myth was debunked long ago. Here is the article he suggested by Krugman Why Markets Can't Cure Healthcare?
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/

Mark Twain said...

From what I have seen about the "Obamacare", it has some troubling FATCA characteristics: The Insurance companies are to be required as to who has Insurance, the list is collated at a department, the poor schmuck needs to self-declare his Insurance compliance, and if it doesn't match with what he has been reported upon, the burden of proof falls upon the schmuck to prove his innocence