If you need a reason to appreciate how your Canadian taxes go towards paying for your health insurance, check out this very lengthy article by Steven Brill on Time's Health & Family section on the ridiculously high cost of health care in the United States -- and there is no change in sight. Reportedly, "the pharmaceutical and health-care-product industries, combined with organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMOs, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington," three-times more than what is spent by "the military-industrial complex spends in Washington."
When we debate health care policy, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?
What are the reasons, good or bad, that cancer means a half-million- or million-dollar tab? Why should a trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be indigestion bring a bill that can exceed the cost of a semester of college? What makes a single dose of even the most wonderful wonder drug cost thousands of dollars? Why does simple lab work done during a few days in a hospital cost more than a car? And what is so different about the medical ecosystem that causes technology advances to drive bills up instead of down?
Recchis bill and six others examined line by line for this article offer a closeup window into what happens when powerless buyers whether they are people like Recchi or big health-insurance companies meet sellers in what is the ultimate sellers market.
The result is a uniquely American gold rush for those who provide everything from wonder drugs to canes to high-tech implants to CT scans to hospital bill-coding and collection services. In hundreds of small and midsize cities across the country from Stamford, Conn., to Marlton, N.J., to Oklahoma City the American health care market has transformed tax-exempt nonprofit hospitals into the towns most profitable businesses and largest employers, often presided over by the regions most richly compensated executives. And in our largest cities, the system offers lavish paychecks even to midlevel hospital managers, like the 14 administrators at New York Citys Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who are paid over $500,000 a year, including six who make over $1 million.
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