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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

This Is How Bad American Health Care Is

Here is a perfect example of how bad our American health care is, given that we tie it to profit and profits. From the LA Times:

Pills and bottle on hundred dollar bills, medicine and health care cost concept

Jan Kern was bitten by a stray dog while traveling abroad and ended up with a jaw-dropping illustration of why the U.S. healthcare industry is completely sick.

That’s because she underwent a series of rabies shots in three countries at four medical facilities. What that revealed, and which will surprise no one, is that Americans pay way more for the exact same treatment than people in other nations.

Moreover, her experience highlights the lack of uniformity for drug prices, including commonly used medications. One facility might charge a few bucks for the same drug that costs thousands of dollars at a U.S. hospital.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to our medical system,” said Rick Kern, 61, who contacted me about his 62-year-old wife’s global healthcare adventure after reading my recent column on drug prices...

The Kerns are former Palos Verdes residents who now reside on Lake Tahoe. While traveling in Southeast Asia a couple of years ago, Jan was bitten by a stray pooch near Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple. The couple went to a nearby hospital, where a doctor recommended vaccination for rabies, necessitating a series of four shots.

The first shot at Royal Angkor International Hospital cost $125. That included $66.75 for the dose of Verorab, a $25 hospital charge and a $25 doctor fee.

Jan received her second Verorab shot at a clinic in northern Thailand. The bill this time: A mere $18.50, which provides the best evidence of the drug’s actual cost. Even with the clinic’s overhead factored in, a shot of Verorab, which is manufactured by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, was priced well below $20.

Things changed dramatically once the Kerns returned to this country. For her third shot, Jan visited Torrance Memorial Medical Center. It was a Sunday, and she had to go to the emergency room, so that added considerably to her cost. The tab for a single injection: $5,254.85.

Shot No. 4 was administered at the Redondo Beach branch of HealthCare Partners medical group. This time the bill was $427.

It’s important to note that the Kerns weren’t on the hook for any of these charges. They’d shrewdly purchased travel insurance before their trip, which covered all related medical costs, even once back in the United States.

Also, that crazy bill from Torrance Memorial was the hospital’s opening salvo in haggling with insurers. Such astronomic charges typically are paid only by those lacking coverage. The actual insured price invariably will be much lower.

And Verorab, which is commonly prescribed for rabies in Europe and Asia because it’s relatively cheap to produce, isn’t available in the United States. Costlier vaccines must be used.

Even so, the Kerns’ experience demonstrates the financial pitfalls that await anyone with a high-deductible health plan and thus responsibility for a greater share of medical costs. It also underlines the lunacy of U.S. healthcare pricing.

Clearly a big hospital like Torrance Memorial has more overhead expenses than a little clinic in rural Thailand — it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. But that doesn’t mitigate how a bill for less than $20 in another country can turn into a bill for over $5,000 in this one.

“Even if the Torrance bill was $1,200, that’s still a stark difference in prices,” said Nadereh Pourat, a professor of health policy and management at UCLA. “It shows that the free market doesn’t work for healthcare. It works for buying televisions, but with healthcare, there’s no price transparency.”

It's crazy what we allow for and in health care in these United States.

I keep saying, and its true, we just aren't that bright.

Link:  U.S. Healthcare: Most Expensive and Worst Performing

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