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Costly Stitches (& Everything Else) Are Latest Focus of the Times' Continuing Series — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
December 4, 2013

Costly Stitches (& Everything Else) Are Latest Focus of the Times' Continuing Series

By Joe Elia

The New York Times' "Paying Till It Hurts" series has a new installment in its investigation of the high costs of U.S. medical care. This one focuses on sticker shock in the E.R.

Using a usually-secret price list of all hospital services (called the "chargemaster"), the Times reporter focuses on the prices charged at California Pacific Medical Center, which has some of the state's highest charges. For instance, three stitches were billed at $2200, another patient's laceration was closed with skin glue for $1700.

One health economist concludes: "The only way to pay less for health care — is to pay less for health care."

Reader Comments (3)

J ROSS HESTER Other Healthcare Professional, Psychiatry, Edcom Associates Holistic Health

The only solution to exorbitant costs is a combination of transparency, making all charges (as on this "secret list") available on-line in a federally sponsored "Health Exchange" and returning responsibility to patients via HSA's [which could receive a need-based subsidy]. As long as third -party payers relieve patients of any feeling of control or responsibility for their health, price will be no object, and only the insurance Co. gamblers [euphemistically termed "underwriters"] will thrive.

CAROL VASSAR private practice

I believe the article also mentioned 5 or more administrators earning over $1,000,000 per year. How much do the administrators at your hospital (at each of our hospitals) earn? What is the total cost of administration at your hospital? It is no news that health care is big business. Each year the decision making is a little closer to pure business and a little farther from trying to help people who have health problems.

David Foster, MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Oregon

Suggestions:
1) Quit using the ER for minor problems and establish regular care with a doctor.
2) In our ER (I'm not an ER doc), about 35% of patients pay some/all of their bills. The costs of operation must be met by shifting costs elsewhere or shutting down. You not only pay YOUR costs, you pay for others, too.
3) The "three stitches" may have also included other exams and studies (? trauma).
4) Don't you love the paperwork required for even the simplest actions?

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