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March 08, 2006

In the "drives me bonkers" category, let's add stories like the one Andrew Tobias blogged.

Hospitals charge uninsured patients three or four times as much as those who are insured. (Shouldn’t there be a law against that? Instead, the Republican Congress moved to tighten the yoke, making it harder for patients to escape devastating these overcharges when they go bankrupt.)

Hospitals do not charge uninsured patients more.

They charge insured patients less.

It may seem like semantic quibbling but it's an important distinction.

Hospital prices for the uninsured look high because of two things:

1) Those of us who are insured are accustomed to seeing the lower, negotiated prices as "normal."

2)Hospitals, facing tough negotiations from insurers, raise their "retail" prices so that they can offer insurers 50% or more discounts from "retail" and yet still make money. If they don't charge the uninsured those "retail" prices, that causes problems for them.

If we're doing to talk about issues, it really is important that we view them correctly.

For instance, the claims that healthcare costs are skyrocketing because of malpractice insurance costs because of 'frivolous' lawsuits?

Anyone else remember those studies they did showing that malpractice insurance premiums were rising at something like three times the rate of malpractice costs?

Posted by AnneZook at 12:29 PM


Given the fact that most people who are served by hospitals actually pay the insurance rate, I think it is entirely reasonable to call that the normal or "ordinary and customary rate". Moreover, people I have encountered who pay the no-insurance rate are routinely offered discounts in the vicinity of 40% if they will pay immediately in cash.

The non-insurance rate is basically an upfront credit fee (at an usurious or near usurious rate) on top of interest.

Posted by: ohwilleke at March 8, 2006 01:06 PM

The fact that you have a handful of coupons that allow you to buy a $1 loaf of bread for 50 cents doesn't change the fact that a loaf of bread is priced at $1.

If you lose your coupon, you'll be paying $1.

Posted by: Anne at March 9, 2006 10:18 AM

I would want to wail-and-moan at the high cost of medical care for the uninsured, but my pesistent campaign of bitching cut my last hospital visit in half.

However, it would be much much better situation, for all, to post the cost of medical care for all. For crying out loud, its 2006, you couldn't get away with all these hidden charges in any other situation.

Posted by: PAshley at March 9, 2006 03:28 PM

I remember my astonishment, many years ago, when I realized that the box of kleenex in my hospital room was an "extra" and charged at an exhorbitant rate. I remember being even more surprised when my post-op pitcher of ice chips was an "extra" charge, and a damned expensive one.

Hotels can give you a list of "extra" charges, so why can't hospitals? If they're going to charge you for a drink of water, you're entitled to know that up front. I totally agree.

(P.S. Not everyone is aggressive or informed enough to be the "squeaky wheel" who can get their bills cut in half.)

Posted by: Anne at March 12, 2006 11:36 AM